Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, perhaps the greatest defensive infielder in baseball history, has died at the age of 86. Robinson’s deft glovework and folksy, “aw shucks” manner earned him scores of accolades and fans, and he is perhaps the most revered sports figure in Baltimore history.
Robinson gained fame prior to the free agent era and spent his entire career as an Oriole. It was common for players to spend their entire careers with the same club, barring a trade, before free agency set the game on its ear and set the table for the mess that Major League baseball is now.
Robinson set the standard for the hot corner during his illustrious career. Possessing almost unnatural reflexes, Robinson redefined how the position was played moving forward. The 18-time All-Star and 1964 American League MVP finished his career with 268 homers, 1,357 RBIs, and a respectable .267 batting average in 2,896 career games.
While Robinson’s offensive statistics were good, his work ethic and skill with the glove far exceeded whatever offensive deficiencies he displayed. Known as the “Human Vacuum Cleaner,” Robinson won an absurd 16 consecutive Gold Gloves, second only to pitcher Greg Maddux for the most for a position player.
Legendary manager Earl Weaver once said about Robinson: “Brooks was maybe the last guy to get into the clubhouse the day of the game, but he would be the first guy on the field. He’d be taking his groundballs, and we’d all go, ‘Why does Brooks have to take any groundballs? I wouldn’t expect anything else from Brooks. Seeing him work like that meant a lot of any young person coming up. He was so steady, and he steadied everybody else.”
Born in Arkansas in 1937, Robinson made Baltimore his home but never forgot his Midwestern roots. Dubbed “Mr. Oriole” by the locals, Robinson left a lasting impact on everyone he met. Legendary player and manager Dusty Baker said, “I’m just sad. Another great one is called to heaven. They got some all-stars up there. He was really nice to me when I was a rookie with the Braves. We used to barnstorm with him all the time and he was a real gentleman. … 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 that day.”
After his playing days, Robinson spent the remainder of his life giving back to the community that embraced him for so many years. The Constance and Brooks Robinson Foundation auctioned off nearly all of his memorabilia and donated all of the proceeds to charity. In 2015, he said, “My children, they have everything they ever wanted from my collection. We’ve been very blessed, my whole family, all the years we’ve been in Baltimore. So it’s time to give back.”
Brooks Robinson was truly one of a kind. Never losing sight of his small-town roots, he embraced a largely minority city and became one of their own. “Mr. Baltimore” represented his adopted city with class and grace, and his contributions on and off the field will never be forgotten.
Featured image screen grab from embedded YouTube video
"*" indicates required fields