Hall of Fame Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson dies at 86

Brooks Robinson, Hall of Fame third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, who helped lead his team to two World Series championships and is widely regarded as baseball’s greatest defensive third baseman of all time, died September 26. Died on. He was 86 years old.

The team announced the death but did not disclose further details.

During a 23-year career in Baltimore, Mr. Robinson was an All-Star 15 seasons and won the Gold Glove Award as the top fielder at his position 16 consecutive years. His ability to hit any ball his direction earned him several nicknames, including the “Human Vacuum Cleaner”, and he remained one of Baltimore’s most beloved athletes long after his retirement in 1977.

He was named the American League’s MVP in 1964 and was among the key players, including fellow Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson (no relation), who formed the Orioles dynasty for the next decade as the team Reached the postseason six times and the World Series four times.

Although the Orioles lost the World Series to the New York Mets in 1969, Mr. Robinson’s reputation for defensive wizardry was already well established by then.

Don Clendenon of the Mets said, “I’m not hitting Robinson in this series.” “That’s the vacuum cleaner, don’t you know that?”

One of the pinnacles of Mr. Robinson’s career was the 1970 World Series, which the Orioles won over Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” in five games. Mr. Robinson was named series MVP.

He set the tone in the first game, catching a groundball off the bat of the Reds’ Lee May in the sixth inning as his speed carried him far into foul territory. Mr. Robinson made a whirlwind throw to first to strike out May and stop the Cincinnati rally.

“He was headed to the bullpen when he threw to first,” Reds relief pitcher Clay Carroll said at the time. “His hand went one way, his body went the other way, and his shoes went the other way.”

In the next inning, Mr. Robinson hit a home run to win the game 4–3 for Baltimore.

He continued to make clutch plays in the field and at the plate during the five games of the series. In Game 3, Mr. Robinson jumped to pull Tony Pérez’s sharply hit grounder, stepped on third and threw the ball to first for a double play.

In the ninth inning of the fifth and final game, Mr. Robinson dived headlong into foul field to catch a line drive by Cincinnati’s power-hitting catcher, Johnny Bench. Appropriately, Mr. Robinson played the final game of the series at third on a groundball.

In addition to his excellent fielding, Mr. Robinson hit .429 during the Series, including two home runs and six runs batted in, one of the greatest performances in World Series history.

Reds manager Sparky Anderson later quipped, “I’m starting to see Brooks in my sleep.” “If I drop this paper plate, he’ll pick it up in one go and throw me out first.”

But for all his exploits on the field, Mr. Robinson was not particularly pedestrian and had only an average throwing arm. His strengths were his quick hands, his lightning speed with his throws, and his uncanny ability to predict where the ball would be hit.

“When I go after the ball, I always think I can get out,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1969.

Mr. Robinson had his best season in 1964, batting .317, hitting 28 home runs and driving in 118 runs – all highs of his career – and he was named MVP of the American League.

Despite winning 97 games in 1964, the Orioles did not reach the World Series until 1966, the year in which another Robinson – slugging outfielder Frank Robinson – was acquired in a trade with Cincinnati. Frank Robinson, the Orioles’ first black star, led the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs to win baseball’s Triple Crown. Brooks Robinson scored 100 runs and performed brilliantly in the field.

Brooks Robinson grew up in Little Rock, where he attended Central High School, the site of violent white protests in 1957 against federally enforced integration efforts.

But in Baltimore, Brooks Robinson embraced Frank Robinson from the beginning, saying that the slugger was “exactly what we need.”

With the two Robinsons, pitchers Palmer and Dave McNally, and Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio, the Orioles won the 1966 World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Throughout his career, whenever Mr. Robinson was asked for an autograph, he was always helpful and was even depicted in a painting by Norman Rockwell signing a baseball for a young fan. (He wrote left-handed, although he batted and threw right-handed.)

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell wrote in 1977, when Mr. Robinson retired, “Of all the game’s great players, Robinson is perhaps least cursed by his fame.” “He had great talent and he never misused it. He received the compliment and responded to it with typical decency. While other players dressed like kings and behaved like royalty, Robinson arrived at the park dressed like a cab driver. Other stars also had fans. “Robinson made friends.”

Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr. was born on May 18, 1937 in Little Rock. His father, a firefighter who played semipro baseball, introduced his son to baseball at an early age, using a sawed-off broomstick as a bat.

Shortly after high school graduation in 1955, Mr. Robinson signed with the Orioles a year after the former St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore. He played with the big league team briefly in 1955, and became the starting third baseman in 1958 before being sent back to the minor leagues the following year.

He became an Oriole forever in 1960 and never played with another team.

During his career, Mr. Robinson set the record for most games played at third base (2,870) and is still baseball’s all-time leader by a wide margin for most putouts, assists and double plays at his position.

Known primarily for his fielding, he finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .267, 268 home runs and 1,357 runs batted in and was easily elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983, the first year When he was eligible. He was the leader of the players’ union, the Major League Baseball Players Association.

In 1959, he met Constance Butcher, a flight attendant on Orioles team flights. According to his 1974 memoir, “Third Base Is My Home”, he told them that all of his teammates were married.

“So remember,” he continued, “if any of them try to talk to you, I’m the only single, eligible bachelor on the plane.”

They got married a year later. Mr. Robinson, who was raised as a Methodist, converted to Catholicism, his wife’s faith. He had four children. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

Following his playing career, Mr. Robinson worked as an Orioles television broadcaster from 1978 to 1993. He lived for a time in California before returning to the Baltimore area, where he was involved in a petroleum company, a consulting organization for athletes, and several businesses. Minor league baseball franchise. He was the co-author of several books about his life in baseball.

He sold most of his memorabilia in 2015, donating the proceeds of $1.44 million to a charitable foundation he and his wife had started.

In 1991, before the final game at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium – the Orioles’ home park for Mr. Robinson’s entire career – he threw the ceremonial first pitch. He was joined by former Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, who tossed the football.

The Orioles retired Mr. Robinson’s number 5 in 1977, and in 2011 a statue of him was unveiled outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It shows him preparing to throw out a runner at first.

“Baseball is the only thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said in 1969, “and it’s the only thing I’ve ever liked.”

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