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Robinson, Brooks

Brooks Robinson

1937-

American baseball player

Brooks Robinson was one of baseball's greatest third basemen. Many say that he single-handedly turned the Baltimore Orioles from a no-name team into a legitimate contender year after year. Off the field, Robinson was kind and gentle, a true ambassador of the game, while on the field he was known primarily for his fielding. Opposing teams would try and keep the ball away from him. He won sixteen consecutive Gold Gloves, played in 2,870 major league games in a career that spanned twenty-three years. Brooks Robinson is an integral part of baseball culture and a fixture in the minds of the people in Baltimore.

Growing Up

Brooks Robinson was born on May 18, 1937, in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Brooks Calbert Robinson and Ethel Mae Robinson. His father was a firefighter and mother a homemaker. Oddly enough, the man who would become one of the best defensive infielders in baseball did not play much as a child. His high school

didn't have a team, and he was actually discovered while playing second base for his local church league.

The Early Years

Robinson started with the Baltimore Orioles in 1960. In his first season he hit .294, belted fourteen home runs, and drove in eighty-eight runs. He won his team's Most Valuable Player award, as well as receiving his first gold glove. He would miss winning the American League MVP and take third in the voting.

During his second season, his numbers improved. In 1961 he hit .303 and knocked twenty-three home runs. His offense, though never stellar, peaked during the 1964 season. He knocked in 118 runs (leading the league in RBIs), hit .317 and slugged twenty-eight homers. Even though it was only his fourth season and he would play ball for nineteen more years, these would be his offensive career highs. He garnered the Most Valuable Player award and was voted Major League Player of the Year by the Sporting News for his 1964 season.

Though his batting average would fluctuate during his long career, Robinson's fielding remained superb.

One Man Show

In 1970, Robinson had three career milestones: he collected his 2,000th hit, his 1,000th RBI and 200th home run. The Orioles would also make it into the World Series, again, but this time the fall classic would be referred to by many as "The Brooks Robinson Show." His bat got hot again, and his glove, always hot, would blaze.

Robinson made some of the most memorable plays in World Series history in 1970, many of which went to put down Cincinnati rallies. Reds relief pitcher Clay Carroll talked about one of his fielding plays as follows: "He was going toward the bullpen when he threw to first. His arm went one way, his body another, and his shoes another." Reds manager Sparky Anderson said that the Orioles didn't beat the Reds, Brooks Robinson beat the Cincinnati Reds. "I'm beginning to see Brooks in my sleep," he said. "If I dropped this paper plate, he'd pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first."

Hanging it Up

On August 21, 1977, the Orioles dropped Robinson from their roster. Rick Dempsey, coming off the disabled list, filled into the space and Robinson decided it was time to retire. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983, on the first ballot. It was a landslide election.

Chronology

1937 Born May 18 in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Brooks Calbert and Ethel Mae Robinson
1951 Plays baseball with local church team because high school has no baseball team
1955 Plays for the first time with the Orioles baseball system
1956-57 Attends Little Rock University (now University of Arkansas at Little Rock)
1958 Hits into first triple play of a record four for his career
1960 Goes 5-5, hitting for the cycle
1960 Marries Constance Louise Butcher on October 8
1962 Becomes 6th major leaguer to hit grand slams in back to back games
1963 Benched for poor hitting, streak of 463 straight games playing third base comes to a halt
1967 Plays in longest All-Star game, 15 innings (three hours and 41 minutes)
1970 Hits 2,000th major league hit, a three-run homer
1971 Ties World Series record by reaching base five straight times on three hits and two walks
1977 Retires from baseball
1978 Becomes color commentator for Orioles games
1979 Takes position as assistant to management for Crown Central Petroleum Corporation
1979 Works with Shapiro & Robinson, a consulting firm
1979 Becomes vice-president of Baltimore Orioles
1983 Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in landslide election

For fifteen straight seasons, Robinson was the American League's starting All-Star third baseman. He led American League third basemen in assists eight times, and led in fielding eleven times. Robinson holds almost every lifetime record for third basemen, often by a large margin. He holds the records for most games played, for best fielding percentage (.971), most putouts (2,697), most assists (6,205), most chances (9,165) and most double plays (618).

His uniform, #5, was officially retired on opening day 1978. In 1999, Robinson was named to the ESPN All-Century Team, honoring the best twenty-five players in baseball during the 20th century.

His Legacy

At the end of the 1964 season, Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich wrote: "It is not quite proper to say that the Baltimore Orioles have brought Robinson's talents to notice with their resolute pennant rush. It is Robinson who has taken Baltimore to its present eminence."

Brooks Robinson's consistent superlative presence at the third base spot, year in, year out, is perhaps only a small reason that even today he's well known in baseball lore. He added a new dimension to the third base position, often forcing teams to change their plans if they'd wanted to bunt. He had skill and flare, and his highlight-reel playmaking took the Orioles from obscurity to a major presence in professional baseball. A truly generous and decent individual, everyone seemed to like Brooks, and no one said anything bad about him. With his wife Connie and their four children, he's a staple in the Baltimore area and more than a few people in Baltimore have named their children after Robinson.

As Robinson neared retirement, due to some naive business dealings, he was having financial difficulty, and the Orioles kept him on those last few seasons, in part, to help him out. When he finally left the playing field, he entered broadcasting. In addition to doing color commentary for the Baltimore Orioles, he also serves as vice-president of Personal Managment Associates, a company that provides athletes comprehensive counseling and support in their professional, financial, and personal lives. Robinson is also is a special assistant with the Crown Central Petroleum Company.

Career Statistics

Yr Team Avg GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB E
BAL: Baltimore Orioles.
1955 BAL .091 6 22 0 2 0 1 0 10 0 2
1956 BAL .227 15 44 5 10 1 1 1 5 0 2
1957 BAL .239 50 117 13 28 2 14 7 10 1 3
1958 BAL .238 145 463 31 110 3 32 31 51 1 22
1959 BAL .284 88 313 29 89 4 24 17 37 2 13
1960 BAL .294 152 595 74 175 14 88 35 49 2 12
1961 BAL .287 163 668 89 192 7 61 47 57 1 14
1962 BAL .303 162 634 77 192 23 86 42 70 3 11
1963 BAL .251 161 589 67 148 11 67 46 84 2 12
1964 BAL .317 163 612 82 194 28 118 51 64 1 14
1965 BAL .297 144 559 81 166 18 80 47 47 3 15
1966 BAL .269 157 620 91 167 23 100 56 36 2 12
1967 BAL .269 158 610 88 164 22 77 54 54 1 11
1968 BAL .253 162 608 65 154 17 75 44 55 1 16
1969 BAL .234 156 589 73 140 23 84 56 55 2 13
1970 BAL .276 158 608 84 168 18 94 53 53 1 17
1971 BAL .272 156 589 67 160 20 92 63 50 0 16
1972 BAL .250 153 556 48 139 8 64 43 45 1 11
1973 BAL .257 155 549 53 141 9 72 55 50 2 15
1974 BAL .288 153 553 46 159 7 59 56 47 2 18
1975 BAL .201 144 482 50 97 6 53 44 33 0 9
1976 BAL .211 71 218 16 46 3 11 8 24 0 6
1977 BAL .149 24 47 3 7 1 4 4 4 0 0
TOTAL .267 2896 10654 1232 2848 268 1357 860 990 28 264

CONTACT INFORMATION

Email: [email protected] Online: brooksrobinson.com.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY ROBINSON:

(With Fred Bauer) Putting It All Together, Hawthorn, 1971.

(With Jack Tobin) Third Base Is My Home, Word, Inc., 1974.

(With Fred T. Smith) Brooks Robinson's Baseball Quiz, privately printed, 1979.

(With Jerry Coleman, Ernie Harwell, Ralph Kiner, Tim McCarver, and Ned Martin) The Scouting Report: 1983, ed. by Marybeth Sullivan, Harper, 1983.

(With Dave Campbell, Denny Matthews, and Duke Snider) The Scouting Report: 1984, edited by Marybeth Sullivan, Harper, 1984.

(With Dave Campbell, Denny Matthews, and Duke Snider) The Scouting Report: 1985, ed. by Marybeth Sullivan, Harper, 1985.

(With Dave Campbell, Harmon Killebrew, and Duke Snider) The Scouting Report: 1986, ed. by Sullivan, Harper, 1986.

Awards and Accomplishments

1960-74 American League All-Star Team
1960-75 American League Gold Glove Award
1964 American League most valuable player; Sporting News American League Player of the Year
1966 All-Star Game most valuable player
1970 World Series most valuable player; Hickok Belt
1977 Joe Cronin Award
1983 Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame
1999 MLB All-Century Team; Uniform number 5 retired by Baltimore Orioles

(With Ted Patterson) The Baltimore Orioles: Four Decades of Magic from 33rd Street to Camden Yards, Taylor, 2000.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Davis, Mac. 100 Greatest Baseball Heroes. New York: Grosset, 1974.

Hirshberg, Al. Greatest American Leaguers. New York: Putnam, 1970.

Libby, Bill. Heroes of the Hot Corner. New York: Watts, 1972.

Peary, Danny, ed. We Played the Game: Memories of Baseball's Greatest Era. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Pub, 1994.

Robinson, Brooks, with Ted Patterson. The Baltimore Orioles: Four Decades of Magic from 33rd Street to Camden Yards. Taylor Publishers, 2000.

Robinson, Brooks, with Fred Bauer. Putting It All Together, Hawthorn, 1971.

Robinson, Brooks, with Jack Tobin. Third Base Is My Home. Word, Inc., 1974.

Robinson, Brooks, with Fred T. Smith. Brooks Robinson's Baseball Quiz, privately printed, 1979.

Robinson, Brooks, with Jerry Coleman, Ernie Harwell, Ralph Kiner, Tim McCarver, and Ned Martin. The Scouting Report: 1983, ed. by Marybeth Sullivan. New York: Harper Collins, 1983.

Robinson, Brooks, with Dave Campbell, Denny Matthews, and Duke Snider. The Scouting Report: 1984, edited by Marybeth Sullivan. New York: Harper Collins, 1984.

Robinson, Brooks, with Dave Campbell, Denny Matthews, and Duke Snider) The Scouting Report: 1985, ed. by Marybeth Sullivan. New York: HarperCollins, 1985.

Robinson, Brooks, with Dave Campbell, Harmon Killebrew, and Duke Snider) The Scouting Report: 1986. ed. by Marybeth Sullivan. New York: Harper Collins, 1986.

Zanger, Jack. The Brooks Robinson Story. New York: Messner, 1967.

Periodicals

Los Angeles Times (August 1, 1983).

National Observer (October 12, 1964).

News-American (Baltimore) (April 6, 1975).

Newsweek (February 3, 1971).

Newsweek (September 5, 1977).

New York Times (July 17, 1966).

New York Times (September 25, 1977).

New York Times (August 29, 1982).

New York Times (January 13, 1983).

New York Times (July 31, 1983).

New York Times (August 1, 1983).

O'Shea, Tim. "Tips on Third Base Defense Shared by Brooks Robinson. Baseball Digest (no. 6, 1995).

People (May 23, 1983).

Sport (June, 1972).

Sporting News (January 24, 1983).

Sporting News (August 1, 1983).

Time (October 26, 1970).

Other

"Brooks Robinson." http://www.baseball-reference.com/ (November 10, 2002).

"Brooks Robinson." http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ (November 10, 2002).

"The Official Brooks Robinson Homepage." http://www.brooksrobinson.com/ (November 10, 2002).

Sketch by Eric Lagergren

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