Brooks Robinson (1937-2023), the Commonplace-Setter at Third Base


Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports activities

Variously referred to as the “The Human Vacuum Cleaner,” “Mr. Hoover,” or “Mr. Not possible,” Brooks Robinson set the usual for defensive wizardry at third base, successful a document 16 consecutive Gold Gloves because of his mixture of ambidexterity, supernaturally fast reflexes, and acrobatic talent. He was an 18-time All-Star, a daily season, All-Star Sport, and World Sequence MVP, and a first-ballot Corridor of Famer. Greater than that, he was “Mr. Oriole” for his 23 seasons spent with Baltimore, a foundational piece for 4 pennant winners and two champions, and a beloved icon throughout the neighborhood and all through the sport. In 1966, Sports activities Illustrated’s William Leggett wrote that Robinson “ranked second solely to crab truffles in Baltimore.” He might have surpassed them since.

Robinson died on Tuesday on the age of 86. In accordance with his agent, the trigger was coronary illness. On the printed of the Orioles’ recreation on Tuesday night time, longtime teammate and fellow Corridor of Famer Jim Palmer fought again tears to pay tribute. “Everyone knows he’s an important participant, he gained 16 Gold Gloves, however we additionally know the way particular an individual he was,” stated Palmer, who like Robinson debuted with the Orioles as a youngster, spent his total profession with the staff, and was elected to the Corridor of Fame in his first yr of eligibility. “I feel as a younger participant making a decision early in your life, ‘Okay, who do I wish to emulate? Who do I wish to be like?’ Brooks was that man.”

Certainly, Robinson the individual was much more revered than Robinson the participant. Wrote the Washington Publish’s Thomas Boswell on the event of the third baseman’s 1983 induction to the Corridor:

The a part of Robinson that can be hardest to transmit to posterity can be his upright character, his manly gentleness, his fixed consideration for others, his knack of mixing candor with kindness. In an age seemingly dedicated to exposing each foible of a public determine, Robinson — nearly alone amongst baseball gamers — was accepted as a sort of pure nobleman. “Folks love Brooks as a result of he deserves to be liked,” stated Supervisor Earl Weaver.

Robinson spent his total main league profession with the Orioles, debuting in 1955 as an 18-year-old and retiring late within the ’77 season on the age of 40. Although not often a spectacular hitter, he totaled 2,848 profession hits and 268 homers to go together with a .267/.322/.401 (105 OPS+) batting line. He made 18 All-Star groups (together with two a yr from 1960–62) and set a document for place gamers together with his 16 straight Gold Gloves (from 1969–75); solely pitcher Greg Maddux gained extra (18), whereas pitcher Jim Kaat equaled Robinson’s whole. In 1964, he gained AL MVP honors by hitting .317/.368/.521 (145 OPS+) with 28 homers and main the league with 118 RBI and eight.1 WAR.

The top of Robinson’s profession was the 1970 World Sequence, when he etched himself into the nationwide consciousness together with his excellent, MVP-winning efficiency on either side of the ball towards the Reds. He hit for a .429 common with two homers and 6 RBI within the Orioles’ five-game triumph, and together with his diving stops and improbably correct throws throughout the diamond, produced a few of the most memorable and oft-aired highlights of any Fall Traditional.

“I’m starting to see Brooks in my sleep,” stated Reds supervisor Sparky Anderson afterwards. “If I dropped this paper plate, he’d choose it up on one hop and throw me out at first.”

Robinson moreover helped the Orioles win the 1966 World Sequence in addition to pennants in ’69 and ’71, with division titles in ’73 and ’74 as nicely. He hit .303/.323/.462 in 156 plate appearances in his postseason profession, and even with a 1-for-19 efficiency in a dropping trigger towards the Mets within the 1969 World Sequence, carried a status as a clutch hitter. However for all of his accomplishments, he was hardly a five-tool standout. He lacked foot velocity and bat velocity, and had neither nice energy nor a very robust arm; in actual fact, he was a pure left-hander who realized to throw right-handed in his youth, and constructed up his arm by throwing newspapers on a supply route that included Corridor of Fame catcher Invoice Dickey. His play on the scorching nook was unorthodox, because the Chicago Every day Herald’s Mike Klein defined in 1973 (h/t Mark Simon):

“It’s a cardinal rule of baseball that any profitable infielder crouch low, hold his head down and glove near the bottom. ‘Play the ball; don’t let the ball play you.’

“However Robinson, and this attests to his nice quickness (completely different from velocity, which he lacks) performs greater than most brothers of the Scorching Nook Fraternity. His crouch is much less pronounced. Enjoying down at shell metropolis means assault and cost the ball. Which he does to perfection.

“There’s even a worked-up set of Brooks Robinson footsteps for ensuring he pivots off the left foot when fielding bunts. What makes his golden magnetic glovework so intriguing nevertheless is that Robinson going backwards and to both facet will make a greater play than most third basemen taking part in it by all the foundations. It’s distinctly Robinson.

“No one else does it fairly the identical.”

Brooks Calbert Robinson was born on Might 18, 1937 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father, Brooks Robinson Sr., was a fireman who performed semiprofessional baseball, whereas his mom, Ethel Mae (Denker) Robinson, was a clerk on the Arkansas State treasury division. The elder Robinson launched the sport to his son, sawing off a broomstick to make use of as a bat, hitting him groundballs, and using him as his staff’s batboy. The youthful Robinson listened to the Cardinals on the radio rising up, and when he was 12 years outdated, wrote a college composition task on his ambition to play third base for the staff.

At Little Rock Central Excessive Faculty — which two years after his 1955 commencement would turn into well-known for its Supreme Courtroom-ordered desegregation — Robinson starred in basketball, incomes all-state honors as a junior. He performed soccer as nicely, however the college didn’t have a baseball staff, so he adopted in his father’s footsteps by taking part in with town’s American Legion staff, the Little Rock Doughboys. His glovework drew the eye of Lindsay Deal, a scout who had a short cup of espresso with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939 and was a former teammate of Paul Richards, who took over because the supervisor and normal supervisor of the Orioles in 1955, a yr after their inaugural season in Baltimore (that they had been the St. Louis Browns prior). “He’s no velocity demon, however neither is he a truck horse,” wrote Deal in a letter to Richards. “Brooks has a number of energy, baseball savvy, and is at all times cool when the chips are down.”

The Orioles, Reds, and Giants every supplied Robinson a $4,000 bonus to signal, with all however the final of these groups providing main league contracts as nicely. Robinson selected Baltimore, signing two days after graduating from highschool in Might. Scout Arthur Ehlers satisfied him that the group’s low standing (that they had completed seventh at 54-100 in 1954) supplied Robinson a faster path to the majors. That turned out to be appropriate, in that after hitting .331/.415/.489 with 11 homers in 95 video games for the York White Roses of the Class B Piedmont League, he was referred to as up. In his main league debut on September 17, 1955, Robinson went 2-for-4 with singles off the Senators’ Chuck Stobbs and Webbo Clarke, driving in a run through the latter. At 18 years and 122 days outdated, he stays the second-youngest place participant to debut with the Orioles since their transfer to Baltimore.

These have been the one two hits Robinson collected in 22 PA within the majors that yr. He spent all however 15 video games of the 1956 season with Double-A San Antonio, gathering his first main league homer off the Senators’ Evelio Hernández on September 29. He made the Orioles’ Opening Day lineup in 1957 however tore cartilage in his knee two weeks into the season, missed two months, and spent over a month rehabbing at San Antonio earlier than returning to the majors. He hit simply .239/.286/.359 with two homers in 50 video games that yr.

With incumbent third baseman (and future Corridor of Famer) George Kell retiring after the 1957 season, Robinson lastly spent a full yr within the majors in ’58. Alas, his dismal efficiency (.238/.292/.305, 69 OPS+) after which a sluggish begin in 1959 — fallout from a winter stint within the Military Nationwide Guard, and a late arrival to spring coaching — led to a return journey to the minors, on this case Triple-A Vancouver. Upon being recalled, he bought scorching over the season’s closing two months and completed with a decent .284/.325/.383 (97 OPS+) line in 88 video games. He was within the main leagues for good.

Robinson broke out in 1960, his age-23 season. He hit .294/.329/.440 (108 OPS+) with 14 homers, and commenced All-Star and Gold Glove streaks. His 4.1 WAR ranked sixth within the league (although in fact the metric was about half a century away from being invented), and he completed third within the AL MVP voting behind Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. The Orioles went 89-65 and completed second within the AL, the franchise’s first season above .500 since 1945 (they went 76-76 in 1957).

The 1960 season started a five-year stretch during which Robinson hit nicely in even-year seasons however was barely subpar in odd-year ones, although protection at all times bolstered his worth. After hitting for a 98 OPS+ with simply seven homers in 1961, he set profession highs for himself throughout the board with a 126 OPS+ (.303/.342/.486) efficiency with 23 homers and a league-leading 6.1 WAR in ’62. After a tepid 1963, he had what would stand as the perfect statistical season of his profession in ’64 whereas serving to the Orioles to 97 wins underneath first-year supervisor Hank Bauer. He was a near-unanimous alternative because the AL MVP, receiving 18 of 20 first-place votes.

Robinson adopted that nice 1964 season with third- and second-place finishes within the MVP voting because of extra consistency on the plate. Within the second of these seasons, 1966, he was joined by Frank Robinson through a commerce from the Reds. The newcomer had been the NL MVP half a decade earlier however was considered as “an outdated 30” within the phrases of Reds proprietor Invoice DeWitt. The Orioles had by no means had a Black star earlier than, and so they already had a clubhouse chief of their third baseman, however considerations about how the incoming Robinson can be acquired have been allayed when the incumbent one greeted him on the batting cage by telling him, “Frank, you’re precisely what we want.” On Opening Day, after the Crimson Sox’s Earl Wilson hit Frank with a pitch in his first plate look as an Oriole, Brooks adopted with a two-run homer. “The Act,” as Sports activities Illustrated termed the pairing of the Robinsons, shortly grew to become a smashing success.

Frank’s firebrand play put a stamp on the Orioles as he gained the AL Triple Crown and MVP honors. The Orioles gained their first pennant, then confronted off towards the Dodgers, the reigning champions, within the World Sequence. The Robinsons hit back-to-back dwelling runs off Don Drysdale within the first inning of the opener and didn’t path for a single inning because the Orioles pulled off a stunning four-game sweep.

Due to above-average offense and off-the-charts protection — Whole Zone rankings of 32 and 33 runs — at a time when pitching was changing into ever extra dominant, Robinson was runner-up to Carl Yastrzemski on the AL WAR leaderboards in each 1967 (7.7) and ’68 (8.4), although the Orioles couldn’t repeat as AL champions. On the All-Star break in 1968, Bauer was fired, changed by Weaver, and because of a late cost the Orioles gained 91 video games and completed second.

They have been simply getting began underneath Weaver. With every league cut up into two divisions beginning in 1969, the Orioles started a run of dominance within the new AL East, successful a complete of 318 video games over a three-season span in addition to three AL pennants. Robinson hit for a modest 105 OPS+ throughout that stretch however nonetheless averaged 20 homers and 4.7 WAR. After beating the Twins within the 1969 ALCS, the Orioles have been upset by the Miracle Mets; Robinson, who had gone 7-for-14 within the ALCS, was held to only one hit, although twice he drove within the Orioles’ solely run in 2-1 losses, no small feat for a staff that scored simply 9 runs in 5 video games.

After going 7-for-12 within the Orioles’ three-game sweep of the Twins in 1970, Robinson took over the World Sequence towards the Reds from the outset. Within the sixth inning of the opening recreation at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium — the primary outside ballpark with Astroturf — Robinson set the tone together with his cease of a scorching smash off the bat of Lee Might down the third bottom line. Robinson backhanded the ball whereas lunging into foul territory, and together with his momentum nonetheless carrying him to his proper threw a excessive, arcing one-hopper to Boog Powell at first base in time for the out. Due to the confluence of colour tv and slow-motion on the spot replay, the play has turn into one of the vital well-known in trendy World Sequence historical past, a mesmerizing spectacle and an archetype for equally dazzling performs by the likes of Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado these days.

“His arm went a method, his physique one other, and his sneakers one other,” stated Reds pitcher Clay Carroll of the play. Within the subsequent half-inning, Robinson broke a 3-3 tie with a solo homer off Gary Nolan that proved to be the deciding run. Within the fourth inning of Sport 2, Robinson victimized Might once more, making a diving cease to his proper, spinning, after which beginning a 5-4-3 double play (see the highest video on the 1:58 mark); he later singled and scored within the midst of a five-run fifth inning that erased a 4-1 deficit. In Sport 3, he drove in a pair of first inning runs with a double off Tony Cloninger, ended the highest of the sixth with a diving catch of a line drive to his left off the bat of Johnny Bench, and within the backside of the body added one other double and scored when pitcher Dave McNally hit a grand slam. In Sport 4, he went 4-for-4 with one other solo homer off Nolan in addition to an RBI single in a dropping trigger. Within the ninth inning of Sport 5, he dove to spear a foul ball off the bat of Bench, and, fittingly, started the Sequence-clinching play by fielding a routine grounder by Pat Corrales, then firing to first to provide the Orioles their second championship in a five-year interval.

Robinson was the apparent MVP of the Sequence. “If we’d have identified he wished a brand new automobile that dangerous, we’d have chipped in and purchased him one,” quipped Bench afterwards. When mixed together with his 1964 AL MVP award and ’66 All-Star Sport MVP award, Robinson was the primary participant to assert all three honors. Frank Robinson grew to become the second only a yr later together with his All-Star Sport award. No one has accomplished it since.

After the Orioles gained the AL East once more in 1971, Robinson got here up large within the ALCS towards the A’s, a budding dynasty themselves. In Sport 1 he singled towards rookie sensation Vida Blue and scored the tying run in a four-run seventh-inning rally that proved decisive. In Sport 2, he began the scoring with a second-inning solo homer off Catfish Hunter; the Orioles gained once more, 5-1. In Sport 3, his two-run, bases-loaded double off Diego Segui broke a 1-1 tie within the fifth inning, and he added one other double within the seventh because the Orioles accomplished the sweep. Within the World Sequence towards the Pirates, he went 3-for-3 with two walks and three RBI in an 11-3 win in Sport 2 however was in any other case comparatively quiet within the seven-game traditional, which the Pirates gained.

Wanting to seek out house for the up-and-coming Don Baylor, the Orioles traded the 36-year-old Frank Robinson to the Dodgers after the 1971 season. Subsequent Orioles groups weren’t as robust, and neither was Brooks. Although he totaled 11.0 WAR from 1972–74, he produced only one above-average season with the bat, within the final of these years. With Baylor and second baseman Bobby Grich offering a much-needed injection of youth, the Orioles gained back-to-back division titles in 1973 and ’74, however they couldn’t get previous the A’s within the ALCS in both yr.

After hitting a dismal .201/.267/.274 in 1975 — nonetheless a season during which he was 18 runs above common defensively en path to 1.8 WAR — and struggling on the plate into 1976 as nicely, Robinson was lastly supplanted because the common third baseman by 25-year-old Doug DeCinces. He spent 1977 as a player-coach, setting a document for 23 consecutive seasons with one staff (Yastrzemski later tied it), however he performed sparingly. He pinch-hit a three-run walk-off off Cleveland’s Dave LaRoche within the tenth inning on April 9; it was his 268th and closing dwelling run.

On August 21, with the staff dealing with a roster crunch, Robinson retired as a participant. “Regardless of the logic of the transfer, it was a really troublesome determination to make, contemplating Brooks’s large achievements and the love all of us have for him,” stated normal supervisor Hank Peters. “He has been, unquestionably, the Orioles’ most essential and most beloved participant and he by no means can be changed within the hearts of his numerous followers.”

A month later, the Orioles paid tribute with a pregame ceremony that included retiring his no. 5. They drove Robinson across the area in a 1955 Cadillac, representing his first yr within the majors, and introduced him with a brand new automobile, a Hawaiian trip, and Memorial Stadium’s third base itself. The Rawlings Firm gave him substitute Gold Gloves, as he had donated all however two of his unique 16 to native charities. Might, by this level a teammate, introduced Robinson with a vacuum cleaner, referring again to the 1970 World Sequence as he stated, “All the things we hit, you sucked it up. And also you’ll discover, Brooks, that similar to you, this machine has a number of miles on it.”

In 1978, Robinson joined the Orioles’ broadcast sales space, a job he would stay in by means of ’93. He couldn’t afford to retire to a lifetime of leisure, as he made lower than $1 million in wage in his total profession, and wound up broke in 1976 when his sporting items retailer was overextended. He grew to become a daily on the baseball card present circuit (this scribe bought his autograph on the 2002 All-Star Sport Fan Fest), and was concerned in quite a few companies, lending his identify to merchandise and serving as a spokesman for Crown Petroleum. Later he was concerned in a gaggle that owned 4 minor league groups, together with one in York, Pennsylvania, the place he started his skilled profession.

Robinson was elected to the Corridor of Fame in 1983, receiving 92% of the vote and changing into the primary third baseman to be elected by the BBWAA in his first yr of eligibility — and simply the third that they had elected in any respect in 48 years. To that time, solely Ty Cobb, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, and Stan Musial acquired greater shares of the vote, although right this moment Robinson ranks twenty eighth in voting share. He was inducted alongside Juan Marichal, Walter Alston, and Kell, the man Arkansas native who had served as his mentor with the Orioles in 1957.

By way of superior statistics, Robinson ranks seventh amongst third basemen in profession WAR (78.4), eleventh in seven-year peak (45.8), and eighth in JAWS (62.1), with 5 of the seven gamers above him within the final of these classes hailing from more moderen eras. Not surprisingly, his standing is pushed by the estimate of his defensive worth, which is predicated on information admittedly much less refined than we now have right this moment. He’s first amongst third basemen in Fielding Runs (Whole Zone and Defensive Runs Saved) by a rustic mile:

Third Basemen Profession Fielding Runs Leaders

SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Contains runs through Whole Zone (by means of 2002) and Defensive Runs Saved (since 2003) for gamers who spent no less than 85% of their careers at third base.

Moreover, Robinson is third all-time amongst all fielders in dWAR, the entire defensive worth that features each Fielding Runs and positional changes:

Profession Defensive WAR (dWAR) Leaders

SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Contains Fielding Runs (Whole Zone and Defensive Runs Saved) plus positional changes. * = Doesn’t embody framing runs.

If there’s an commercial for the Oriole Method, whose basis was laid by Richards and maintained by his successors, it’s right here. Not solely did the homegrown Robinson and Belanger type the perfect defensive left facet of any infield for a interval of over a decade, however Aparicio preceded Belanger because the staff’s common shortstop from 1962-66. Ripken was the son of a profession minor leaguer who served because the spine of the group as a coach and supervisor; Cal Ripken Sr. managed Belanger at A-level Aberdeen in 1964.

Anyway, longevity clearly has one thing to do with Robinson’s standing — in actual fact, his 2,896 video games performed ranked fifth when he retired and remains to be sixteenth — nevertheless it’s additionally notable that he by no means began a recreation at one other place, and performed simply 47.1 innings elsewhere, switching to second or shortstop in late-inning conditions early in his profession. He by no means performed first base or DH, and offered important defensive worth at third for so long as he held the common job.

“I don’t suppose anyone will care what I did right here 20 or 25 years from now,” stated Robinson with typical humility to Sports activities Illustrated’s Mark Kram in 1970. But greater than half a century later, folks nonetheless do care, not solely concerning the feats Robinson completed on the sphere however about the way in which he carried himself off of it. That’s fairly a legacy.

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