When talking about the Baltimore Orioles, the conversation is incomplete without Brooks Robinson.
The Baltimore Orioles third-baseman is celebrating his 83rd birthday today, which gives us an opportunity to reflect on what he means to the Orioles and to the MLB.
He spent 23 years with the Orioles, his first six games were played in 1955 at age 18. He had a few more short seasons moving back and forth between Baltimore and the minors before he went on to have 15 consecutive All-Star seasons between 1960 and 1974.
He retired in 1977 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.
One surprising fact about Robinson is that he was not a “Bonus Baby.” These were players signed for more than the $4000 that most players were given. Some teams gave Bonus Babies $15,000 or $175,000 – which was a substantial sum for players between 1947 and 1965. During this time, the Orioles only signed seven for a total of $246,000: Billy O’Dell, Jim Pyburn, Wayne Causey, Tom Gastall, Tex Nelson, Frank Zupo, and Jerry Walker.
Interestingly, Robinson was a 78.4 WAR player who earned less than $1 million during his MLB career. Those seven bonus babies combined didn’t reach even half of Robinson’s value, as their combined WAR was 33.4. A handful of those Bonus Babies played three seasons or less.
Just goes to show that it can be tough to evaluate and predict what a teenage player will do in the future.
For Robinson, it was about being better each time a ball went into play. He wanted to learn and improve.
Robinson’s career was loaded with highlights. Defensively, no one was better. But, according to several sources, the 1970 World Series was it. Granted, he had already won a World Series title in 1966 against the Dodgers. According to This Great Game, Robinson said about Game 5 in 1970:
“Everyone seems to want to know about Game Five. Johnny Bench came up in the ninth inning of that game and lined a foul ball that I swore I wouldn’t be able to reach, but somehow I caught it. There were a lot of other exciting plays in that series, but people for some reason want to talk about that particular catch!”
ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian said it best in his latest post about Robinson:
“Brooks Robinson was good on every play. I believe he is the best defensive third baseman of all time.”
And, he is. No position player has more Gold Gloves than Robinson. His 16 Gold Gloves at third base will be tough to top. For fans who were too young to see Robinson, his closest comparison at third would be Nolan Arenado – who already has seven Gold Gloves in his seven-year career. Granted, Arenado has a long way to go.
Robinson was undoubtedly one of the best to play baseball. What many who know him notice is that despite his achievements and fame, he is one of the nicest men to have played. Again, Kurkjian said it best:
“Brooks Robinson is the single nicest man I have ever met in a major league uniform. I am not alone. He is beloved in Baltimore. He is beloved everywhere.”
We at Birds Watcher wish Robinson the happiest birthday. We also hope that he is able to celebrate many more. The world is a better place with Robinson in it.