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Brooks Robinson: A Third Basemen for the Ages

The longtime Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer dies at age 86


spinner image hall of fame baseball player brooks robinson smiles at a dedication ceremony for his bronze statue in front of sovereign bank stadium in york pennsylvania
Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

It didn't matter where the ball was hit, if Brooks Robinson was anywhere in the vicinity, he would scoop it up and rob the batter of a hit. For 23 seasons, Robinson was the anchor in the infield of the Baltimore Orioles, and after his playing days were over, he was still synonymous with his careerlong team as a television broadcaster.

Baseball was Robinson's life, and so were the Orioles. He signed with The Birds right after graduating high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, and he never left. He joined the team in 1960, and soon began racking up accomplishment after accomplishment and record after record.

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“Baseball is the only thing I have ever done in my life,” he said in 1969, “and it is the only thing I have ever loved.”

Here are just some of the reasons that Robinson remains one of Baltimore's most beloved professional athletes:

  • Was an 18-time all-star
  • Won the Gold Glove award for fielding 16 years in a row
  • Named American League MVP in 1964
  • Played a record 2,870 games at third base
  • Had 2,848 hits and 268 home runs
  • Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1983, the first year he was eligible. He got almost 92 percent of the votes.
  • Was the MVP of the 1970 World Series when the Orioles beat the Cincinnati Reds in five games. He was also at third base when his team beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games in the 1966 Series.
spinner image brooks robinson in his baltimore orioles uniform in 1966
Brooks Robinson played his entire 23-year Major League Baseball career with the Baltimore Orioles.
AP Photo

Robinson's ability to reach any ball that came his way and make clutch catches at pivotal moments earned him the nickname "the Human Vacuum Cleaner."

Given his extraordinary accomplishments and longevity, Robinson could well have become full of himself, spoiled by his fame. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Throughout his career, Robinson could be seen stopping to sign an autograph for a young fan, something he was portrayed doing in a Norman Rockwell painting, the only individual major leaguer the artist ever painted.

"Of all the game’s greats, perhaps Robinson has been least cursed by his own fame,” Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell wrote in 1977, when Mr. Robinson retired. “He had great talent and never abused it. He received adulation and reciprocated with common decency. While other players dressed like kings and acted like royalty, Robinson arrived at the park dressed like a cabdriver. Other stars had fans. Robinson made friends.”

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On Sept. 24, 2022, the Orioles staged a Thanks Brooks Day in honor of the 45th anniversary on Robinson's retirement. Robinson had been an Orioles broadcaster from 1978 to 1993. He helped write several books about his baseball life.

Brooks was also a loyal teammate. When Frank Robinson (no relation to Brooks) came to the Orioles in 1966, Robinson welcomed the Orioles' first Black star with open arms. Both men had grown up in Little Rock, and Brooks Robinson called Frank Robinson “exactly what we need.”

spinner image brooks robinson statue at oriole park at camden yards in baltimore
A view of the statue of Brooks Robinson with flowers from fans during a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 26, 2023 in Baltimore.
Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

Robinson’s enduring legacy in Baltimore is evident to every visitor to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The statue of him preparing to make his classic throw from third to first was unveiled in 2011. The team retired his No. 5 in 1977.

The consummate infielder died on Sept. 26, at his home. He was “an integral part of our Orioles Family since 1955, he will continue to leave a lasting impact on our club, our community, and the sport of baseball,” the team said in announcing his passing.

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