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Happy '78th' Birthday Brooks Robinson!


BobbyWoontz

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I remember how happy I was when I learned that he was coming back for the 1977 season. I just didn't want to admit to myself that his career was essentially over after his marked decline following the 1974 season. That's how much he meant to me as an Oriole fan.

Dreams die hard.

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It's very appropriate that 75 is the diamond anniversary of the man who played more seasons on a baseball diamond than any other Oriole. Get well soon, Brooks. This is what I wrote two years ago for the OH "Encyclopedia Project."

Brooks Robinson

* Third Base

* 6-1 190

* Born: 5/18/1937 - Little Rock, Arkansas

* Amateur free agent signing, 1955. Little Rock Central High

Bio – Nicknamed the 'Human Vacuum Cleaner', Robinson was the greatest defensive third baseman of all-time, winner of a record sixteen straight Gold Glove Awards at his position from 1960-1975. He holds the all-time third baseman record for fielding percentage (.971, 1000+games), chances (8,902), putouts (2,697), assists (6,205) and double-plays (618).

A career Oriole, he wore the team uniform a franchise-record twenty-three seasons, most of which was during the Golden Age of Orioles baseball. The Orioles finished with a winning record in seventeen of Robinson’s last eighteen seasons. During that period, the team had an average regular season winning percentage of .575 (1663-1226), and won 90+ games 12 times. The Orioles won the A.L. pennant four times between 1966-1971, including World Championships in 1966 and 1970. Robinson was the MVP of the 1970 World Series, frustrating the Cincinnati Reds, time after time, with the dexterity of a jungle cat, pouncing on ground balls, and throwing out runners, deep from the hot corner.

Played in 18 All Star Games, spanning 15 consecutive seasons, second only to Cal Ripken, Jr. for the Orioles. He is also second to Ripken, Jr in games played (2,896), at bats (11,782), hits (2,848), RBI (1,357), singles (2,106), doubles (482), total bases (4,270), and runs scored (1,232). Robinson finished in the top three in voting for American League MVP for three straight years, winning the award in 1964. He finished second in 1966 to another Oriole named Robinson, Frank, who won the Triple Crown.

His number “5” was the first ever retired by the Orioles in 1977, and he was a charter member of the Orioles Hall of Fame that year along with Frank Robinson. He was named on 344 out of 374 total (92%) ballots for induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1983.

Following his playing career, starting in 1983, Robinson spent ten years as a television announcer for Or-i-oles baseball games alongside another Hall of Famer, broadcaster, Chuck Thompson. Today, Robinson is part owner of the York Revolution and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, both of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

Robinson is still a much-beloved figure in Baltimore Orioles history. Gordon Beard, a longtime sportwriter in Baltimore, famously compared Robinson with Baltimore-born, baseball legend, Babe Ruth. Beard said, “Brooks never asked anyone to name a candy bar after him. In Baltimore, people name their children after him.” Always a fan favorite, Robinson was immortalized in a painting by legendary American artist, Norman Rockwell. Rockwell portrayed him standing by the fans along a fence, autographing a baseball for a young boy, who gazed back at Robinson in awe and excitement. Many people, both young and old, who have had the pleasure to have met Robinson, over the years, share the sentiments of that boy in Rockwell’s work. On the occasion of his seventieth birthday, a road in Pikesville, Baltimore County, Maryland was renamed Brooks Robinson Drive in his honor. Brooks Robinson Plaza is right outside the ballpark for the York Revolution. In the plaza, there sits a bronze statue of Robinson dressed in the uniform for the former York White Roses, which Robinson wore for a few months prior to his first move to Baltimore.

Brooks Robinson’s Career Stats

Orioles 1955-1977:

1955: Signed right after high school graduation, and barely eighteen years old, he began the year in June with the Class B York (PA) White Roses of the Piedmont League, where the Orioles sent their best prospects. Robinson was a mid-September call-up, appearing in only six games, collecting the first two hits in the first game of his major league career off Washington Senators southpaw, Chuck Stobbs. He went 0-18 after that with ten strikeouts. After the season, he played winter ball in Barranquilla, Colombia for Willard Battery Company.

1956: After training camp with the Orioles in Scottsdale, Arizona, Robinson was assigned to the AA San Antonio Missions of the Texas League. Once again, he was called up after the minor league season ended. Appearing in 15 games, he hit .227 in 44 at bats, including his first major league home run, again against a Senators pitcher, Evelio Hernandez.

1957: Opened the season in Baltimore, before getting injured on April 23rd in a game against Washington. Rehabilitation from knee surgery sent him back to San Antonio, before returning once again to Baltimore on July 23rd. He finished with a .239 batting average in 117 at bats in 50 games. The Orioles sent him to play winter ball in Cuba, for Cinefuegos.

1958: His first full season in the majors, playing in 145 out of 154 games. The three home runs he hit matched his total for 1956 and 1957 combined, while hitting only .238 in 463 at bats. Despite hitting just .232 in parts of four seasons with the Orioles, he was already making quite an impression on manager Paul Richards for his glove-work. Richards declared, “that boy is going to become a star.” Robinson spent from October until late April in the Arkansas National Guard.

1959: After fulfilling his military obligation, he reported to the team in April, and was stunned to being sent down in early May to the AAA Vancouver Mounties in the Pacific Coast League. He was recalled to Baltimore on July 9th. His batting average jumped to .284 with 4 home runs in 313 at bats. Robinson was in the major leagues to stay.

1960: This would be a huge breakthrough season, which culminated in a third place finish in the voting for league MVP. (The league champion Yankees M&M boys, Maris and Mantle took the top two slots.) His batting average again improved to .294 with 14 home runs in 595 at bats. The 88 RBI he collected were 16 more than the rest of his career years combined. He won the first of his sixteen straight Gold Glove Awards with his best fielding percentage to date (.977). Robinson played in his first two All Star Games.

1961: Robinson played all 163 games in the first year of the expanded major league season. He hit .287 with seven homers and 61 RBI in 668 at bats (his highest total before or since). Once again, he played in both All Star games.

1962: He hit over .300 for the first time (.303) while playing in every game for a second straight year with 23 HRs and 86 RBI, coupled with a .979 fielding percentage. For the third straight year, he played both games in the last year of two All Star exhibitions.

1963: He missed only one game all season. His batting average tumbled for the lowest total since 1958, down to .251. Robinson added 11 home runs and 67 RBI to his career mark.

1964: Won the American League MVP award in a huge turn-around from the preceding year He set career-highs in HR (28), RBI (118), batting average (.317), slugging (.521), OBP (.368) and OPS+ (145) and games played (163 –tie). Also, he won his 5th straight Gold Glove (matching his jersey number) with a fielding percentage of .972.

1965: This was another solid year for Robinson, hitting .291, with 18 HRs, 80 RBI and an OPS+ of 124. Robinson finished third in the league MVP voting.

1966: While his batting average went down to .269, he drove in 100 runs for only the second, and last, time in his career, to go along with his 23 HRs and an OPS+ of 123. He ended up second in the league MVP voting.

1967: Robinson produced numbers very close to 1966, again hitting .269 with 22 HRs, an OPS+ of 123, and a reduction in RBI to 77. His fielding percentage of .980 was his career best.

1968: The last time he played in every game of the season, his average declined to .253. HRs and RBI also fell to 17 and 75 respectively. OPS+ was 116.

1969: The lowest batting average(.234) of any full season that he had in the majors. Twenty three home runs and 84 RBI with a sharp cut in OPS+ to 92. His fielding percentage of .976 was one of the highest in his career.

1970: Robinson had his best batting average (.276) since 1965, combined with 18 HRs and 94 RBI. In the ALCS versus Minnesota, he hit .583 with a slugging percentage of .750. He followed that performance by hitting.429, with a slugging percentage of .810 in the World Series, driving in a team leading 6 runs. His stellar defense in that Series also contributed to him being named the MVP.

1971: Robinson repeated much of his 1970 season performance, hitting .272 along with 20 HRs and 92 RBI and a .968 fielding percentage. He finished 4th in the voting for league MVP.

1972: His power numbers tumbled sharply to only 8 HRs, 64 RBI, along with a slugging percentage of .342, that was his second lowest total over a complete year. Batting average went down to .250.

1973: He endured a continued decrease in his power numbers, which began the previous year, posting a .257 batting average, 9 HRs, 72 RBI, .344 slugging, and an OPS+ of 90 (identical to 1972).

1974: Robinson bounced back somewhat to hit .288, driving in 59 HRs, with 7 HRs and an OPS+ of 113. This marked his final year on the American League All Star squad.

1975: Despite playing in 144 games, he had the lowest RBI (53) and batting average (.201) in any complete season, and added 6 HRs to his final total. OPS+ declined by almost 50% to 58. He was awarded the last, and, then major-league record, 16th consecutive Gold Glove for his career.

1976: Robinson gave way to Doug DeCinces at third base,who was drafted by the Orioles in 1970. Playing in only 71 games, he hit .211, 3 HRs, and drove in a mere 11 runners.

1977: He appeared in only 24 games, his lowest total since 1956. He hit his final home run on April 19th off Cleveland reliever, Dave LaRoche, driving in Doug DeCinces, with the game winner in the bottom of the 10th inning. His final two hits of his career, both singles, came off Kansas City’s Steve Mingori on June 3rd. Robinson played his final game on August 13th, as the Orioles needed the roster space for catcher, Rick Dempsey, whom they acquired in trade with the Yankees the previous summer.

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I don't think words or statistics can really do justice to Brooks. The only way to describe his defense is "sublime." There has never been a fielder, at any position, who made as many spectacular plays as Brooks, and it got to the point where it was simply expected. Two or three times a week, he would make some amazing play, and the announcers would react like, "well, there's Brooks again." I have never seen a fielder that was his equal, which is amazing when you consider he had below average speed and there was nothing about his body that would suggest great athletic prowess. And he had no weakness. Towards the line, towards the hole, charging bunts, throwing from odd angles, there was simply no play where he wasn't superb.

I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but by all accounts, he is one of the most down to earth, approachable guys ever to play a professional sport. He never thought himself above his teammates or the average Joe on the streets. That is a huge part of his legacy.

Happy Birthday, Brooks, I hope you have many more coming.

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I don't think words or statistics can really do justice to Brooks. The only way to describe his defense is "sublime." There has never been a fielder, at any position, who made as many spectacular plays as Brooks, and it got to the point where it was simply expected. Two or three times a week, he would make some amazing play, and the announcers would react like, "well, there's Brooks again." I have never seen a fielder that was his equal, which is amazing when you consider he had below average speed and there was nothing about his body that would suggest great athletic prowess. And he had no weakness. Towards the line, towards the hole, charging bunts, throwing from odd angles, there was simply no play where he wasn't superb.

I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but by all accounts, he is one of the most down to earth, approachable guys ever to play a professional sport. He never thought himself above his teammates or the average Joe on the streets. That is a huge part of his legacy.

Happy Birthday, Brooks, I hope you have many more coming.

I agree completely Frank, and that is essentially why I was so thrilled to have him coming back for that '77 season, even though I knew that he had been past his prime for several years at that point.

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When I was growing up near Ft. Meade, MD Brooks Robinson was my absolute favorite baseball player. When we moved to Germany (my Dad was in the Army) I mailed Brooks a box of Danish sugar cookies every year on his birthday... and every year he would send me an autographed picture with a short note of thanks.

Years later, when I was living in Raleigh, NC... Brooks made an appearance at a Durham Bulls game for a promotion of some kind. He was sitting at a table signing autographs and I got in line to wait my turn. Even though I had worked for Governor's, Senators and even a couple of Presidential candidates, I was absolutely tongue tied when it was finally mine turn to meet the man. I started stammering something about when I was a kid sending him cookies on his birthday and Brooks looked up, smiled at me, nodded his head earnestly and said, "yes I remember those... that was awfully nice of you to do that." Now of course, I'm sure he didn't actually remember... but it was incredible that he pretended that he did. He asked me what I was doing now and how long my Dad served in the army, and generally acted like he was happy to see me.

I've never forgotten that moment and I never will. What a class act.

Happy Birthday Brooksie!

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THE reason I've been a fan since 1971...

Brooks-BoysLifecover.jpg

When Brooks first came up, I was 9 and he was 18, twice as old as me. I looked up to him as my favorite sports player and idol. Now he is only 9 years older, but I look up to him even more.

geethanksbrooks.jpg

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I have only met Brooks once, but it was certainly a memorable occasion. I was still quite young during the "Why Not?" season of 1989, and most of us know what a thrill that was, to the bitter end. At the time, Brooks was still broadcasting, and was scheduled to make an appearance at the Prince George's County Fair, I believe on Labor Day. My dad probably wanted to get out of the house, since my brother had been born five months before and was quite the handful, and he also knew how closely I had been following the team.

We made it an early morning, going to the *Zayre (yeah, don't forget the asterisk) store in Waldorf probably right as it opened - there was just about no one there. I got a baseball as quickly as I could (unfortunately, the selection wasn't vast), and we headed up to the fairgrounds. I'm pretty sure I was wearing the first Orioles cap I ever had - a foam-and-mesh snap-adjustable variety featuring the then-new design, one of many that flooded the Crown gas stations in the area in '89, available for purchase for around $5. It had been hot the previous Saturday, but the weather had cooled off enough by Monday to make it pretty much perfect.

There were a lot of people out to see Brooks that day. Aside from the fact that, hey, it's Brooks Robinson, the weather and the Orioles' pennant chase brought many folks out. I don't remember how long I stood in line, but it was awhile, for sure. As I was getting to the table, I noticed that yes, he indeed looked and sounded just like on TV. He greeted everyone, and made sure to take a moment with to make sure everything was right before each individual or family were on their way. His patience and affability were remarkable. He signed my baseball and included what I didn't know was part of the standard deal, a signed, personalized black-and-white photo print of himself in late career, smiling as broadly as ever despite his playing days being nearly at an end. Brooks also provided the same print for my brother, sight unseen.

For me to be able to meet Brooks wasn't something you could put a price tag on, and having his autograph was neat, too, especially for a couple of poor kids like us who couldn't afford to travel very far or go to any games (I finally went to an Orioles game when I was 27 - even then I would not have gone but for a friend's offer), and took in most of our games through the radio. My brother would grow up as an Orioles fan, which if you're a baseball fan at all is the right way to grow up, even through the lean years, and soon we will sit together at a game for the first time. We never thought that he would see the Taliban and al-Qaeda in person before seeing the Orioles, but that's the way life goes sometimes. I hope one day he will get to see Brooks, but regardless, Brooks is always with us through his kindness, his patience, and his love of the game, which only added to his skill as reasons to admire him both as a player and as a man.

Indeed, happy birthday, Brooks. Best to you, sir.

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