Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles Brooks Robinson died yesterday at the age of 86. He was a true legend not only in Baltimore but among baseball fans everywhere. His stats are still remarked upon among baseball fans, as Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post notes:
"Baltimoreans of a certain age can recite the numbers by heart: Robinson’s 23 seasons in an Orioles uniform, the 18 all-star appearances, the 16 Gold Gloves as arguably the greatest defensive third baseman in history. He was the most beloved figure of the most successful era in Orioles history: the 1966 to 1974 teams that went to four World Series, won two of them and made two other playoff appearances."
His passing would be notable if only for his brilliant playing and status in the Hall of Fame. But that would cheat him out of his full legacy:
"To have grown up in Baltimore in the last quarter of the 20th century was to have known a hundred Brookses. The scrappy kid on your Little League team who insisted on wearing No. 5. Your schoolyard buddy from three stoops down. The cut-up in your fifth-grade class: Brooks, Brooks, Brooks. Even now, though Cals eventually came to outnumber them on the playgrounds of Charm City, you still meet an occasional Brooks, and the name still brings a knowing smile.
'Around here, nobody’s named a candy bar after Brooks Robinson,' Baltimore-based sportswriter R. Gordon Beard said in 1977, referring to the confection named for New York Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson. Instead, he said, 'We name our children for him.'”
He was humble, friendly and a gentleman to all, including in the day when baseball was adjusting at times roughly to African American players entering the game. Houston Astros Manager Dusty Baker recalls Brooks' decency. From ESPN:
"I never heard anything negative about him, ever. And he was on a team that with the Orioles had a number of African American players. I think they had 10 or 12. They all loved him. That's saying a lot. Especially back in the day."
Rest in peace, "Mr. Oriole."
BONUS: Sports writer Tom Boswell on the kind of person Robinson was.
(photo: Rogers Photo Archive / Getty Images)