By Bill Stewart
Brooks Robinson was a third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 to 1977. His nicknames were “The Human Vacuum Cleaner,” “Mr. Hoover” and “Mr. Oriole.”
Brooks was born May 1937 in Little Rock, Arkansas, and died Sept. 26, 2023, in Owings, Maryland. He played his first game as an Oriole on Sept. 17, 1955. His lifetime stats were .267 batting average, 2,848 hits, 268 home runs and 1,357 runs batted in. During his career he was an all-star 18 times, twice a member of the Orioles World Series Championship, American League MVP in 1964, World Series MVP in 1970, 16 Gold Glove Awards, Roberto Clemente Award in 1972, Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame member and Major League Baseball All Century Team member. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
Born in Little Rock as Brooks Calbert Robinson, he delivered papers for The Arkansas Gazette and became the operator of the scoreboard and sold soft drinks at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock. His father played second base for a local semipro team and taught Brooks to play as a youngster. When Brooks got older, he played for Little Rock Central High School and the American Legion Doughboys for the M.M. Eberts Post Number One in Little Rock; the team reached the regional finals in 1952 when he was 15 and reached the sectional tournament in 1953. He was approached by the University of Arkansas to play both baseball and basketball and was awarded a full scholarship, but he wanted to play pro baseball.
Linsday Deal went to Capital View Methodist Church with the Robinson family and had been a teammate of the Baltimore Orioles’ Paul Richards on a minor league team and told Richards of Brooks’ abilities. Scouts came to see Robinson play and he was offered to sign for the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Giants and the Orioles. Each team offered $4,000 and Brooks decided on the Orioles.
He made his debut for Baltimore on June 3, 1955, at second base. He batted two for four. He played the next season at Class AA Antonio Missions. He was brought up late in the season, played in 15 games – demonstrating his terrific fielding abilities – but only batted .227.
Brooks competed with Hall of Famer George Kell in spring training for third base, and Kell was shifted to first base. He suffered many injuries during the season and only played 50 games. The Orioles had him play winter ball in Havana, and he led the league with nine home runs. He contributed to a no-hitter by making three terrific fielding plays. After the 1958 season, he joined the Arkansas National Guard. He couldn’t practice so he wasn’t in shape for the 1959 season. The Orioles sent him to the Vancouver Mounties of the Class AAA of the Pacific League.
He became an everyday player in 1960 and remained there through 1965. That led to his first all-star selection. On July 15 in 1962, he became the first Oriole to hit for the cycle: single, double, triple and home run. He batted .303, hit 23 home runs and had 86 RBIs. During the 1963 season, he had played 462 consecutive games when the manager benched him – hitting only .219 by the all-star game. He finished the season hitting .251, 11 home runs and 67 RBIs. He worked with coach Gene Woodling in the off season.
He was an outstanding player for the Orioles in 1966 and 1971 when the club won the World Series. In 1970 he was awarded the Hickok Belt given to the top professional athlete of the year. In 1971 he played 50 games in a row without an error. His final season was 1977 where he often sat on the bench as the team had a new youngster, Doug DeCinces.
His career totals were 2,896 games played, .267 batting average, at bat 10,654 times, 1,232 runs scored, 2,848 hits, 482 doubles, 68 triples, 268 home runs, 1,357 RBIs, 28 stolen bases, 860 bases on balls and 990 strikeouts. He became a color analyst for the Orioles TV games in retirement. An outstanding third baseman, probably the best ever, he will long be remembered in Major League Baseball.
(Editor’s Note: Bill Stewart, better known to Saugus Advocate readers as “The Old Sachem,” writes a weekly column about sports – and sometimes he opines on current or historical events or famous people.)