We spoke with Rick Moran, blogger and political commentator...
One of my favorite memories was hearing my late father say that he saw Brooks Robinson play in Cuba. Back then, many young players from Willie Mays to a young lefty Tommy Lasorda, played in the Cuban winter league hoping to impress their organization before spring training.
As you probably know, Brooks Robinson died on Tuesday, at age 86. His story is wonderful:
Although he eventually became synonymous with Baltimore during his playing career and following his retirement, Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr. was born on May 18, 1937, in Little Rock, Ark., where he attended Little Rock Central High School and went on to play baseball at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 1955, Robinson signed with the Orioles for $4,000, and he made his debut for the team later that year at the age of 18.
From 1955-59, Robinson played only 304 games for the O’s, spending some time in the Minor Leagues and dealing with numerous injuries. But soon after, Robinson became a fixture in the Orioles’ lineup, where he’d be a stalwart for the better part of two decades.
Robinson’s breakout year came in 1960, when he was named an All-Star for the first time and captured his first Gold Glove. He was then an All-Star every year through ’74 and a Gold Glover every year through ’75.
While Robinson more than held his own at the plate, it was his glovework that always had everybody in amazement.
‘He was the best defensive player at any position,’ the late Frank Robinson, a fellow Hall of Famer and Orioles legend, once said. ‘I used to stand in the outfield like a fan and watch him make play after play. I used to think, 'Wow! I can’t believe this.’
Well, I agree with the late Frank Robinson. I had the pleasure of watching a lot of Orioles baseball when I went to school in Maryland. Brooks was a daily highlight film, from his amazing catches, to running in to pick up the ball and throw out a runner at first, or all the double plays that he started by going to his left. It was so automatic that you expected every other third baseman to do that but they couldn’t. They were not Brooks.
It wasn’t just his glove. He was a good hitter with a reputation for hitting in the clutch. In other words, you did not want Brooks at the plate with the winning run in second base. He usually drove that run in. He retired with 2,848 hits and 1,357 RBI in 2,896 games.
My favorite memory was Brooks Robinson Day in September 1977. The stadium was full and I was lucky to get in. Baltimore was playing Boston, and in the middle of a pennant race that went to the last weekend, when the Yankees got in. Brooks went around waving at the fans and the affection for this man was something unbelievable. I saw a father pick up his young son and wave at Brooks. There were tears and cheers as this man went around the stadium.
Over the years, I asked myself why is this man so loved and respected? He was great off and on the field.
Last, but not least, I remember watching the 1970 World Series at school. I looked at the screen and Brooks was making one amazing play after another. It was like he was playing at another level.
Rest in peace Brooks. Thanks for all the plays we get to watch on YouTube.
P.S. Check out my blog for posts, podcasts and videos.