Earlier today the Baltimore Orioles announced that legendary third baseman Brooks Robinson has passed away at the age of 86. The Hall of Famer played for the Orioles from 1955-1977.
It’s a sad day for Orioles fans, whose legends continue to leave us too soon. Brooks Robinson will be rightly remembered as not only the greatest third baseman of all time, but also as the kindest and warmest gentleman that most of us could ever hope to interact with.
The Orioles signed Brooks Robinson in 1955 and he debuted that same year at age 18. He really came into his own beginning in 1960 when he kicked off a string of consecutive All-Star seasons and Gold Gloves. Ultimately he made 18 All-Star Games and racked up 16 GGs. He was an MVP in 1964, his finest offensive season. He appeared in 39 postseason games for the Orioles with a .303 batting average and was a member of the World Champion 1966 and 1970 teams.
Brooks Robinson’s defensive plays are what are set in our memories. Even a fan like me who is too young to have seen him play has heard the stories of his incredible defensive prowess and has seen many clips of his incredible plays, like this one from the 1970 World Series:
Anyone who ever got the chance to interact with Brooks Robinson was surely struck by his incredible kindness. My biggest moment with him was when I visited a Dundalk Ollie’s to have him autograph a print of the Norman Rockwell painting Gee Thanks, Brooks. As a line queued in anticipation, Brooks started signing early when he saw the crowd. The well-intentioned Ollie’s employees tried to stop it, but there was no stopping Brooks’s kindness.
Though I wasn’t too far back in the line, it took me a long time to get to him. Brooks didn’t just sign autographs. He had conversations with every person he interacted with. I got to hear him tell one fan how he used to sit home at night and practice spelling the word vacuum so that he’d get it right when someone asked him to sign with “the human vacuum cleaner.” He told some other fans not to be too hard on Brian Roberts, who had just been named in the Mitchell Report. He reminded them that there is a lot of pressure on baseball players and it doesn’t mean Roberts isn’t a good person.
When I approached, he asked me about the Cooperstown hoodie that I was wearing. I told him I got it that summer when attending Cal Ripken’s Hall of Fame induction. He smiled and said, “Hey I was there too!” and told me that it was too hot that weekend and he just tried to stay out of the sun. He dedicated his autograph on my Rockwell print to my father. It is still framed and hanging in his house.
Today is a sad day. We will never see another human like Brooks Robinson. Please share your favorite Brooks stories and memories in the comments below.
“There’s not a man who knows him who wouldn’t swear for his integrity and honesty and give testimony to his consideration of others. He’s an extraordinary human being, which is important, and the world’s greatest third baseman of all time, which is incidental.” - John Steadman