Brooks Calbert Robinson, Jr. (born May 18, 1937) is an American former professional baseball player. He played his entire 23-year major league career for the Baltimore Orioles (1955–1977). He batted and threw right-handed, in spite of the fact he was a natural left-hander. Nicknamed "The Human Vacuum Cleaner", he is generally acclaimed as the greatest defensive third-baseman in major league history. He won 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards during his career, tied with pitcher Jim Kaat for the second most all-time for any player at any position. Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas to Brooks Calbert and Ethel Mae (née Denker) Robinson. His father worked for a large bakery in Little Rock, Colonial Bakery, and then went to work for the Little Rock Fire Department (rising to the rank of captain ), while his mother at first worked for Sears Roebuck & Company, and then in the controller's office at the state capitol. His father played second base for a semi-pro team. Young Brooks Robinson, Jr., delivered the Arkansas Gazette on his bike, and also operated the scoreboard and sold soft drinks at Lamar Porter Field.
After he graduated from Little Rock High School on May 27, 1955, where he was scouted for the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball program in Fayetteville, he played in South America in 1955 and in Cuba in 1957. In the off season of 1956-1957, and then again in 1958, he attended two winter semesters at Little Rock University, majoring in business. He went into the army in 1959, joining the Arkansas National Guard right before he was to be drafted into the United States Army.
In his playing career, Robinson was selected for the All-Star team in 15 consecutive years (1960-74), and played in four World Series. He compiled a .267 career batting average with 2,848 hits, 268 home runs and 1357 runs batted in. Robinson led the American League in fielding percentage a record 11 times, and at the time of his retirement, his .971 career fielding average was the highest ever for a third baseman. His totals of 2870 games played at third base, 2697 career putouts, 6205 career assists, 8902 career total chances and 618 double plays were records for third basemen at the time of his retirement. Robinson's 23 seasons with one team set a new major league record, since tied by Carl Yastrzemski. Only Yastrzemski (3308), Hank Aaron (3076) and Stan Musial (3026) played more games for one franchise. Robinson also hit into four triple plays during his career, a major league record. He commented, "I wouldn't mind seeing someone erase my record of hitting into four triple plays."
When the Orioles started their team Hall of Fame, Brooks and Frank Robinson were the first two men inducted. Following his retirement as a player, Brooks began a successful career as a color commentator for the Orioles' television broadcasts. In 1982, local television WMAR's on air news team in Baltimore, Marylandwent on strike and picketed the WMAR headquarters for the two months approaching the baseball season. When Robinson refused to cross the picket line, WMAR management re-opened the negotiations and the strike ended the next day.
At the conclusion of his final season in 1977, his jersey number 5 was retired by the Orioles. Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983, one of only 16 players to have been honored on the first ballot (not including the five charter members chosen in the first election in 1936). Considered among the greatest all-time Orioles, Robinson and the man usually considered the greatest Baltimore Colt football player, Johnny Unitas, had plaques in their honor in the lobby of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. When the Orioles played their last game there on October 6, 1991, Robinson and Unitas were invited to throw out the ceremonial first balls. (Unitas threw a football.) After the conclusion of the game, several Oriole players took the field in the uniforms of their time and stood at their old positions on the field, Robinson was chosen to be the first player to come out (Cal Ripken, Jr. was chosen to be the last).
On October 22, 2011, a statue was unveiled on Washington Boulevard in downtown Baltimore depicting Robinson preparing to throw out a runner at first base. Robinson was present for the unveiling of the statue and commented that it "gave him more hair than he deserved". The statue weighs more than 1,500 pounds, is dark gray in color with the exception of a gold colored fielders's baseball glove, and is located about 300 yards away from the Camden Yards statue of Babe Ruth.
On September 29, 2012, the Orioles unveiled a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Robinson at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as part of the Orioles Legends Celebration Series during the 20th anniversary of the ballpark. The unveiling had been previously scheduled to be on May 12, 2012, but had to be rescheduled due to Brooks still slowly recovering after falling off a stage on January 27, 2012.
Robinson started his career at Lamar Porter Field, a neighborhood baseball field in Little Rock, Arkansas.
In 2008, Robinson released a charity wine called Brooks Robinson Chardonnay with all of his proceeds donated to the Baltimore Community Foundation in a fund created in the name of Robinson and his wife Connie.
Robinson currently serves as president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA), an organization that assists players and fans to interact off the field. Major League legends Bob Boone, George Brett, Chuck Hinton, Mike Hegan, Robin Yount, Rusty Staub, Carl Erskine and Al Kaline preside as Vice Presidents. As well as the non-profit missions of the MLBPAA, the organization assists former major-leaguers through its wholly owned for-profit organizations MLAM (Major League Alumni Marketing), and MLAS (Major League Alumni Services). MLAM goals include implementing a player pool and gaining compensation for former players through appearances and endorsements, while protecting the name and likeness of former players from unauthorized uses.
Robinson is one of the investors in the Opening Day Partners group, which owns four teams in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. The group named the Brooks Robinson Plaza at the entrance of Santander Stadium in York, Pennsylvania in his honor. In the 1970s, Robinson published his autobiography entitled Third Base is My Home.
He met his future wife, Constance Louise "Connie" Butcher, on an Orioles team flight from Kansas City to Boston in July 1959, where she was working as a flight attendant for United Air Lines. He was so smitten with her that he kept ordering iced teas for her. Some of his teammates encouraged him to go talk to her. After drinking his third glass, he returned it to her in the galley. There he told her: "I want to tell you something. If any of these guys, the Baltimore Orioles, ask you for a date, tell 'em you don't date married men. Understand? I'm the only single guy on the team." Before the plane landed in Boston the two had made a date to go out. He was not the only bachelor on the flight, something he lied about to keep her from talking to them. Brooks and Constance were married in her hometown of Windsor, Ontario, Canada on October 8, 1960. Originally raised a Methodist, Robinson eventually converted in 1970 to the Catholic Church, his wife's faith.
On March 31, 2011, Robinson was admitted to Greater Baltimore Medical Center for emergency surgery after he developed an infection and fever. In the two weeks he spent in the hospital, he received an outpouring of letters and well-wishes from fans around the country. He had also previously been successfully treated for prostate cancer in 2009.
^ abHunt, Jim (May 1, 1965). "Brooks Robinson: The Nice Guy Who Finishes First". The Montreal Gazette (Canadian Weekly). pp. 21–22.
^Staples, Billy; and Rich Herschlag (2007). "Brooks Robinson: Big Talent from Little Rock". Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk about Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs. HCI. p. 395. ISBN978-0-7573-0626-6.