As the 2023 Baltimore Orioles move forward in their chase for the American League East division crown, we find ourselves in a position to remember the past. After all, you can't truly appreciate where you are now without knowing where you started.
Brooks Robinson passed away on Tuesday at the age of 86. Robinson was the first Oriole great and a leader on the dynasty team that won four American League pennants and two World Series Championships in six years. He has been one of the most beloved players in the franchise's history.
Baseball legend and Oriole lifer Brooks Robinson passed away at age 86
Robinson debuted for the O's in 1955 and spent parts of 23 seasons with the club. Even when his playing days were over, Robinson stayed a part of the organization. He was a color commentator from 1978-92 and continued to make appearance at Camden Yards as long as his health would allow it. Brooks was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1983, his first year on the ballet, becoming just the second player to wear an Orioles hat in the Hall of Fame (Frank Robinson was the first just a year earlier).
Robinson was a great person as well as a great baseball player. Let's take a look back at five interesting numbers from the life an career of #5.
Brooks Robinson, who is synonymous with the number five in Baltimore, actually wore four different jersey numbers during his career. Robinson broke into the majors as a September call up in 1955 and was given the number 40. He only appeared in six games that season, and coincidentally, wore number 6 in 1956, but only for the 15 games he played in that season.
Robinson returned to the Orioles for 50 games in 1957 wearing the number 34 before finally landing on the number 5 in 1958. Brooks had some trouble becoming a full time player in the first few years of career due to his young age and some injury issues, but after that he became one of the more durable players in baseball.
18 years 122 days to be exact. That's how old Robinson was when he made his major league debut on September 17, 1955, making him the sixth youngest player to ever debut for the Orioles. At an age where most of us are just starting to figure out what we want to do with our lives, Robinson was doing it.
After playing in 95 games in the minor leagues, Robinson was called upon to help the ailing Orioles finish the season. The Orioles were in only their second year of existence at the time and finished with a 57-97 record. Brooks went 2-4 with an RBI in his debut game.
Outside of being a great baseball player, Brooks Robinson was also a great person. In 1972, he became the second player to win the Commissioner's Award. That award was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award the following season following Clemente's tragic death. The award is given to players that demonstrate a commitment to their community and Brooks Robinson certainly did that.
Robinson continued to do charity work through the rest of his life. As recently as 2015, Robinson sold off his personal memorabilia and raised $1.44 million to launch the Constance and Brooks Robinson Charitable Foundation.
Brooks Robinson won three MVP's during his playing career. Robinson was the MVP of the 1966 all-star game. He went 3-4 with a triple off of Sandy Koufax and scored the AL's only run in a 2-1 loss to the National League. Robinson batted fifth for the junior circuit and played the entire 10 inning affair. There were only 12 combined hits in one of the greatest pitcher's duels in all-star history. Brooks and Roberto Clemente (2) were the only players to record multiple hits in the contests.
Robinson won the World Series MVP in 1970 as he helped the Orioles take down Cincinnati's Big Red Machine 4 games to 1 for the Orioles second World Series Championship. He went 9-21 with two doubles, two home runs, six RBI's and an incredible 1.238 OPS in the series.
Brooks had at least one hit in each game of the series and at least one RBI in the first four games. Robinson's biggest game was game four where he went 4-4 with two runs and two RBI's in what was ironically the O's only loss of the series.
The first MVP Robinson won was the biggest. Brooks was the 1964 AL MVP, the first player to win the award in Baltimore Orioles history. Robinson slashed .317/.68/.521 that season. He had 194 hits, 35 doubles, three triples, 28 home runs, 82 runs scored and an AL leading 118 RBI's. He won his fifth consecutive gold glove and ushered in an era of Orioles dominance that lasted several years after he retired.
Of course, the top number in Robinson's career is the 16 consecutive gold gloves that he won at third base. A record that still stands for position players, is still tied for second among all players (Greg Maddox won 18 and Jim Kaat won 16). As great of a hitter as Brooks was, he was most known for his defense.
The man they called the Human Vacuum Cleaner had a .971 career fielding percentage with only 264 errors in 9,196 chances. After facing Robinson in the 1970 World Series, Reds manager Sparky Anderson once said "I'm beginning to see Brooks in my sleep. If I dropped a paper plate, he'd pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first."
It wasn't just the Orioles who lost a legend, it was all of baseball and it was the people all over the world he helped with his charity work. Robinson had spent several of the later years of his life working as in inspirational speaker and did everything he could to give back to anyone and everyone. As we mourn the loss of an all-time great, I am reminded of one of the more famous lines from the movie 'The Sandlot': "Heroes get remembered, but legends never die."