Brooks Robinson Is Still Baltimore's Hero
Brooks Robinson might have been the final Oriole the team honored with a statue in center field, but he's still first in the hearts of fans.
Thousands of people gathered in the Oriole Park at Camden Yards park area beyond center field Saturday as one of the most beloved players in team history was honored with a bronze likeness. Time after time, those celebrating Robinson mentioned the 18-time All-Star and 16-time Gold Glove winner's humility and kindness.
Those traits were on full display Saturday, as the man considered the greatest third baseman ever talked little about his personal accomplishments and instead focused on his family, friends and teammates. But Robinson made sure not to call his supporters "fans."
"I call you friends," Robinson said during a second ceremony, which took place on the field. "Ever since I came to Baltimore. … you have just treated me wonderful."
A National Baseball Hall of Famer, Robinson, now 75, was far less emotional than he was last October when another statue was dedicated to him just outside the ballpark. At the time, many were calling for the team to put a statue in the park, which the club was planning behind the scenes.
Five other Orioles who are in the Hall of Fame were also honored with statues this season. The Orioles had initially planned to honor Robinson in May, but the event had to be postponed because of Robinson's health issues.
All of the previous honorees -- Frank Robinson, Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Earl Weaver -- were in attendance Sept. 29 and sang the praises of the man called the "human vacuum cleaner" during his career.
"Not only is he loved in Baltimore for his feats on the field, but he is loved for his affection towards the fans and the numerous contributions he made for the community," Weaver said. "What a privilege it was for me to have been his manager."
Sports journalist Roy Firestone celebrated Robinson in a speech, and people consistently called him a hero for his play. Robinson not only inspired the fans, but he also inspired future Hall of Famers, such as Murray and Ripken.
"It was great to play alongside Brooks in my first year and his final year," Murray said. "As a kid, we all knew about the great Brooks Robinson. It was a pleasure to become his friend and crab buddy after my baseball career."
During the first ceremony, Robinson talked about a young Ripken practicing with his father around the Orioles. It turns out the elder Ripken was setting a barometer for his son.
"Like a lot of kids from Baltimore, [Robinson] was the Oriole I looked up to," Ripken said. "My mom and dad pointed him out as a guy to admire, not only for what he did on the field but for what he represented off the field. Everyone loves Brooks, and for good reason."
At the time he was playing, Robinson was also a hero to his teammates.
"Brooks was our Johnny Unitas," Palmer said. "Everybody who ever saw him play knows how great a player he was. You just don't find people as gracious and humble as Brooks. I am so fortunate to have had him as a teammate and friend."
During the second ceremony, Robinson said the biggest decision of his life came when he was a teenager and signed with the Orioles.
It's a relationship that has lasted 57 years. While some have speculated the Orioles and Robinson have had a frosty relationship during recent years, Robinson praised the club's ownership Saturday. He also said during a news conference he is enjoying his business partnerships and does not desire to work regularly with the club.
Robinson is watching the 2012 Orioles closely. He congratulated the current team on its postseason chase.
During one ceremony, he asked the fans,"How about them Birds?"
Robinson lavished praise on the team's front office decision makers and manager Buck Showalter. He also said rookie third baseman Manny Machado was special.
His love of the Orioles' name and colors has not waned.
"I love Baltimore and I plan on being around for a long time," Robinson told the crowd before the game.
Posted Sept. 29, 2012