He was “Mr. Oriole,” Brooks Robinson.
More than being arguably the best defensive third baseman in baseball history, he was someone with great character and integrity. Someone who was humble, folksy, approachable, sincere, kind, and beloved by fans.
According to the Baltimore Orioles historian, Ted Patterson, “Never has a player meant more to a franchise and more to a city than Brooks has meant to the Orioles and the city of Baltimore. Other stars had fans, Robby made friends.”
Orioles broadcaster Chuck Thompson once commented, “When fans ask Brooks Robinson for his autograph, he complied while finding out how many kids you have, what your dad does, where you live, how old you are, and if you have a dog….His only failing is that when the game ended, if Brooks belonged to its story — usually he did — you better leave the booth at the end of the eighth inning. By the time the press got to the clubhouse, Brooks was in the parking lot signing autographs on his way home.”
Brooks Robinson was a first ballot Hall of Famer. He wore number 5 on his uniform, which the Baltimore Orioles retired out of respect.
He played an incredible 23 seasons with the same team, the Orioles, on four pennant winners and two World Series winners. He was an All-Star selection for 18 consecutive seasons. He earned 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards. In 1964 he won the Most Valuable Player Award. In 1970 he won the World Series MVP award.
Among all third basemen who ever played the game, diving to his right and diving to his left at the hot corner, Brooks Robinson holds the major league records for career assists, putouts, double plays, and total chances.
He met his bride-to-be, Connie, on a plane, traveling with the team. She was a flight attendant with United Airlines. He kept ordering iced teas as an excuse to see her. Finally, he said, “I want to tell you something. If any of these other guys, the Baltimore Orioles, ask you for a date, tell ’em you don’t date married men. Understand? I’m the only single guy on the team.” Which wasn’t true, but it didn’t matter, because they did go out, they did get married, and they did have four children. And he converted to Catholicism, her faith.
When Robinson passed, John Harbaugh, another Catholic, and head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, said that Robinson was “a wonderful and gracious man…full of love for everyone he met.” Harbaugh was trusting that God would “forever bless him and the entire Robinson family.”
Teammate and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, said of Robby, “Great player, great guy on the field, great guy off. Respectful, kind. And you don’t meet too many guys like that. Brooks was a genuine person. There was no acting….I think for all of us who knew him, he was the best.”
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred stated, “He was one of the greats of our national pastime. I will always remember Brooks as a true gentleman who represented our game extraordinarily well on and off the field all his life.”
Casey Stengel and Home Run Baker, each of whom played and was associated with the game of baseball for half-a-century, did agree that Brooks Robinson was the greatest third baseman they ever saw.
Yet a third Hall of Famer, and who also played third base and to whom Robinson was often compared, Pie Traynor, said, “I once thought of giving him some tips, but dropped the idea. He’s just the best there is.”
Upon retiring from baseball, with his listenable Southern drawl, Brooks Robinson became the color commentator for the Orioles television broadcasts. But he had other business pursuits. For 30 years he was the spokesman for Crown Central Petroleum.
In 2020 he was the National Baseball Hall of Fame Recipient of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award recognizing Robinson’s service in the Vietnam War.
There are three life size statues of Brooks Robinson: the first was erected in the Brooks Robinson Plaza outside WellSpan Park in York. The second was unveiled in downtown Baltimore. There is another outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
In 2015 Brooks Robinson auctioned off many mementoes from his great career, including his 1966 World Series ring. The auction raised $1.44 million for the Constance & Brooks Robinson Charitable Foundation.