A few days ago, on Tuesday night, some terrible news struck the airwaves. Former Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson passed away at 86. This is devastating news for Oriole fans and old-time major league fans nationwide. Robinson was a tremendous player but will always be remembered for being a defensive maestro at third base. Brooks played with the O’s from 1955-1973, his play spanning three different decades! He is the longest-tenured Oriole and is tied with Carl Yastrzemski for the longest tenure with one team. Robinson was selected to be an American League all-star 15 years in a row while being awarded the third base Gold Glove Award 16 times. Remember Brooks Robinson’s astonishing career and look back at his greatness.
Robinson’s Come Up
By Brooks’ fifth year in the majors in 1960, people noticed his defensive prowess at third base. He would hit for the cycle on July 15, 1960, over the Chicago White Sox and earn his first Gold Glove Award. By the end of the 1960 season, Robinson would finish third in the AL MVP voting, sitting behind Yankees’ Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. The Orioles would challenge the New York Yankees for the top spot in the American League, ending the 60 season with an 89-65 record.
Brooks MVP Season
A few years following the 1960 season, Brooks was still a perennial all-star caliber player. The problem was that he needed recognition as one of the league’s best. Time and time again, he always needed to be more appreciated. Brooks would prove everybody wrong in the 1964 season, making waves and winning his first MVP Award. That year, he would hit his career-best in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. In 163 games played that season, Robinson accumulated 194 hits, 28 home runs, and 118 batted in. Even with winning 97 games in 1964 and 94 games in 1965, the Orioles were still on the outside looking in from the playoff picture. That would all change in 1966.
Orioles First World Series Championship
Baltimore would finally win the American League Pennant in 1966 after obtaining a 97-63 record. This was the club’s first pennant since 1944 when they were known as the St. Louis Browns. Brooks would finish second in the AL MVP voting, finishing behind his teammate Frank Robinson. The Orioles would head to the World Series to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. Baltimore would sweep Los Angeles in four games to obtain their first franchise World Series championship.
Baltimore Heads to the World Series Three Times in a Row
The Orioles would make a household name for themselves by winning the World Series in 1966 and 1970. In 1969, the O’s would unfortunately fall five games to the New York Mets. By 1970, the Orioles would be again back in the ALCS, this time facing the Minnesota Twins. Robinson and the O’s finished the job by sweeping the Twins in three games. Brooks played outstanding. He went seven for twelve with three runs scored, two doubles, and two runs batted in. The Cincinnati Reds would be their opposition in the 1970 World Series. This is where Brooks Robinson legitimately established himself as a Hall of Fame caliber player.
During the sixth inning of game one, with the score tied at three, Reds first baseman Lee May hit a fair ball that hopped one time past third. Robinson, playing behind third base, lunged and backhanded the ball. He would make a 180-degree spin and a one-hop toss that would beat May to the bag. He would rob Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and other great Reds legends from getting on base.
Brooks had a .429 batting average during this series with two home runs. What stood out was Robinson’s outstanding play on the field while making several close-to-impossible spaces. He made two double plays while fielding 23 chances during the 1970 World Series. After all the phenomenal effort, the Orioles won the World Series in five games. The World Series MVP would go to none other than Brooks Robinson. The following year, the O’s would fall to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games in the 1971 World Series.
A Dramatic Closing
Robinson sat on the bench in his final days in a Baltimore Orioles uniform while Doug DeCinces claimed the starting third base job. Baltimore was facing the Cleveland Indians on April 19, 1977. Cleveland was managed by Brooks’ former teammate, Frank Robinson. With the game tied at two apiece, this game went into extra innings. The Indians would score three runs in the top of the tenth, but the O’s stayed relentlessly focused. Baltimore would score one run, and with one out and two runners on base, O’s manager Earl Weaver called Robinson to pinch hit. Brooks Robinson would smash a three-run home run to give his team a 6-5 win. That would be Robinson’s 268th and final home run of his career. After the win, he would state to reporters, “I feel like a little kid every time I put this uniform on.”
Orioles broadcaster Chuck Thompson said in an American Baseball Research biography, “When fans ask Brooks Robinson for his autograph, he complied while finding out how many kids you have, what your dad does, where you live, how old you are, and if you have a dog. His only failing is that when the game ended, if Brooks belonged to its story — usually he did — you better leave the booth at the end of the eighth inning. By the time the press got to the clubhouse, Brooks was in the parking lot signing autographs on his way home.” His induction into the Hall of Fame happened in 1983.
Main Photo Credits: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports