Simply The Greatest: Brooks Robinson Passes Away At 86

Brooks Robinson, spent all 23 years of his career playing third base for the Baltimore Orioles, and in retirement, served as the city and team’s ambassador.

Known as “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” and “Mr. Hoover”, Brooks Robinson has passed away at the age of 86 years old. Quite simply, Brooks Robinson is one of the greatest third basemen to play the game of baseball with his worldly fielding skills that won him 16 Gold Gloves, netted him 18 all-star bids, 2 World Series Titles, and the triple crown of Most Valuable Player awards (All-Star, World Series, and League).

Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr. was born on May 18th, 1937 in Little Rock, Arkansas and was signed to a Major League contract of $4,000 by the Baltimore Orioles at the age of 18 after he graduated from Little Rock Central High School. He was offered a scholarship from the University of Arkansas due to his fantastic basketball ability but he declined and accepted the Orioles’ deal because they showed the most interest.

After a few games in the minor games, Robinson made his first appearance with the Orioles on September 17, 1955 at Memorial Stadium vs. the Washington Senators, batting sixth. He picked up 2 hits in 4 at bats and then going hitless in 18 at bats before sitting for the season. The Orioles assigned him to the Willard Blues, a Colombian Winter League team for top prospects. During his time there, pitcher Earl Wilson hit Robinson in the head but thankfully, due to the new fiberglass helmet that was being tested, he escaped severe injury.

In 1956, Brooks spent time with the Class-2A San Antonio Missions, he was promoted to the major leagues and appeared in 15 games, hitting .227.

In 1957, He competed with George Kell to be the everyday third baseman and Kell happily mentored the young future Oriole superstar. However, two weeks into season, Robinson completely tore the cartilage in his knee while swerving to avoid a tag at first base. He’d miss May and most of June on a rehab assignment. On August 14, 1957, Brooks Robinson smashed his first of 268 career homeruns off of Pedro Ramos. He was sent to Havana for more development and led the league with 9 homeruns during his development.

In 1958, Yogi Berra said that Brooks Robinson had a “great future” ahead of him after Robinson made a spectacular diving catch off of the bat of Gil McDougald that Robinson threw to home to get Berra out.

Following the season, he was spared from being drafted into the military by serving 6 months in the Arkansas National Guard.

In 1959, he was sent to the Vancouver Mounties where he suffered a near career ending injury when he caught his right biceps on a hook that tore tendons and caused severe bleeding, but thankfully it missed tearing a nerve. He missed 25 games but returned after Paul Richards brought him up before the All-Star Break as promised and was not overmatched by big league pitchers. He batted .284 in 88 games.

During the 1960-1965 years, Robinson flashed the leather and changed up his hitting ways because he was known for swinging at bad pitches. In 1964, he won the American League Most Valuable Player award with a .317 batting average, 28 home runs, and 118 Runs Batted In. In 1962, a foreshadowing of his defensive prowess was determined when Coach Lou Fitzgerald said this, “He doesn’t catch them, he absorbs them.”

In 1966 with the addition of Frank Robinson from the Cincinnati Reds, the Orioles were widely expected to contend for the American League Pennant. In the 1966 All-Star Game in 106-degree heat, he made some sparkling defensive plays, picked up 3 hits, and was named the ASG MVP. In 157 games in 1966, he hit .269 with 23 homeruns and 100 RBI. In the 1966 World Series, Frank and Brooks Robinson hit back-to-back homeruns off of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale. He made more spectacular plays including one in which Wes Parker of the Los Angeles Dodgers was quoted as saying, “You cannot stop this guy, he’ll stop a train with that glove!” The underdog Baltimore Orioles won the series, 4 games to 0. Sandy Koufax himself was impressed with Brooks saying, “he’s the man who beat us.”

In 1970, he won the World Series MVP with a .429 average, 2 homeruns, and sterling defensive gems that wowed even the Reds as the Orioles took home the championship with a 4 games to 1 victory. During the series, Sparky Anderson famously said, “I’m beginning to see Brooks in my sleep. If dropped this paper plate, he’d pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first. He could throw his glove out there and it will start ten double plays by itself.”

Pete Rose was even impressed with the Orioles superstar saying, “I’ve never seen anything like him in my life. Brooks Robinson belongs in a higher league.”

Tony Perez was shocked as well, “He has to be the greatest third baseman of all time. I just enjoy watching him play. He’s in the right place at the right time.”

When hearing that the World Series MVP won a new car with the award, Johnny Bench joked, “Gee! If he wanted a car that badly, we’d all have chipped in and bought him one!” Bench also quipped, “I might as well become a left-handed hitter just to keep the ball away from the guy!”

Or the ever famous from Lee May, who became a good friend to Robinson later in life, “Very nice play, where do they plug Mr. Hoover in.”

Brooks was the winner of the Hickok Belt, which names the top professional athlete of the year.

Later in his career, he served as the Major League Baseball Players Association representative with the Orioles.

Robinson concluded his 23-year Orioles career with 2848 hits, 268 homeruns, and 1357 Runs Batted In. in 39 postseason games, he hit .303 with 5 homeruns and 22 Runs Batted in. He set an American League Record for leading the league in field percentage for 11 seasons. His career fielding percentage of .971 was higher than that of any 3rd baseman when he retired. He also holds a dubious distinction of hitting into 4 triple plays as he quipped, “that’s one record I wouldn’t mind someone breaking.”

Brooks making one of his stunning defensive plays.

He served as color commentator for the Orioles until 1993 when he wanted to spend more time focusing on his business pursuits. He was spokesman for Crown Petroleum from 1968 to 1998. He also helped start the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association which helps secure benefits, promotes baseball, raises money for charity, and helps retired players keep in touch with each other. He remained the head until his death.

He also was the principal founder of the York Revolution for the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

Honors for Mr. Oriole, Brooks Robinson

Orioles retired number 5 on April 14, 1978 and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983 with 91.98% of the vote. Kell, who was then a legend on the Detroit Tigers, got in on the same year as well as he said, “It was unbelievable that two kid raised just 90 miles apart, and with the same churchgoing backgrounds and the same ideals, would go into the Hall of Fame the same day, you couldn’t write the script any better.” Kell and Robinson would share an embrace and was congratulated by his former teammate and mentor.

In 1977, he and Frank Robinson were the inaugural members of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. Brooks Robinson and Johnny Unitas were the men who “closed down” Memorial Stadium as both men threw out first pitches (Unitas actually threw a football). After the game was concluded, Robinson led 119 former Oriole players in uniform out onto the field, where they took their old positions. The great number 5 taking his usual third base position.

He was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century team in 1999 and Number 80 on the Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players ever.

Robinson was named the Orioles Franchise Four and the winner of the 2020 National Baseball Hall of Fame Bob Feller Act of Valor Award for his service in the Vietnam War.

He won the Golden Plate for the American Academy of Achievement.

In 1972, he was the second recipient and the first Oriole to win the Roberto Clemente award.

In 1990, he was named the recipient of the Silver Beaver Award for distinguished service.

In 2007, Radio Tower Drive became Brooks Robinson Drive in Pikesville, Maryland.

In 2008, the WellSpan Park unveiled a statue for him in Brooks Robinson Plaza in York.

In 2011, the second statue of Brooks Robinson preparing to throw a runner out at first was unveiled on Washington Boulevard.

In 2012, a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Robinson at Oriole Park at Camden Yards was unveiled on September 29, 2012 as part of the Orioles Legends Celebration Series during the 20th anniversary of the ballpark.


He was known as a kind, humble, relatively low-key player with a lively persona. He met his future wife, Connie Butcher, on a team flight from Kansas City to Boston. She was working as a flight attendant and he was so smitten by her, that he kept ordering iced teas from her. After his third glass, he went to the galley and lying to her by saying: “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.” They were married in Canada in 1960.

He was a huge fan of reading, reading books about the civil war and World War II. He also enjoyed country western music as well.

We here at the Maryland Sports Blog are deeply saddened by the loss of a wonderful legend in Brooks Robinson. He was a caring individual who thought of his fans as his friends and also enamored them with his strong defensive gems.

With the Orioles in the postseason this year, I hope this serves as motivation for them to win it for the city and also for the man they call, “Mr. Oriole”, “The Human Vacuum Cleaner”, or “Mr. Hoover.”

“Robinson was a legend of baseball and cherished throughout the baseball and Baltimore community. Robinson will be remember for being a fantastic human being and one of the best third baseman of all times on and off the field.” – Maryland Sports Blog owner Brian Hradsky.

“I didn’t get to see Brooks play in person, however, watching legendary videos of him making vibrant plays that would make even today’s generation of baseball players go wow. Brooks is one of the players who belongs in that higher league.” – Maryland Sports Blog writer Joshua Leuschner

“Brooks Robison never asked anyone to name a candy bar after him. In Baltimore, people named their children after him.” – Gordon Beard

“He charged everything. He reacted as the ball was coming off the bat, sometimes as it was coming to the bat!” – George Brett

“There’s not a man who knows him who wouldn’t swear for his integrity and honesty and give testimony to his consideration of others. He’s an extraordinary human being, which is important, and the world’s greatest third baseman of all time, which is incidental.” – John Steadman of The News American


“We are deeply saddened to share the news of the passing of Brooks Robinson. An integral part of our Orioles Family since 1955, he will continue to leave a lasting impact on our club, our community, and the sport of baseball.”

Thank you Brooks, thank you for everything. Let’s Go O’s.

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Joshua Leuschner

Orioles/Ravens/Capitals/Terrapins/Inter Miami CF fan. Runs a podcast who tells it like it is (I-95 East Coast Sports Podcast) and loves sports, sports betting (responsibly of course), and finding arcane statistics in professional sports. He is also a devoted classic cartoon enthusiast (1930s rubberhose and 1940s-1960s silver/golden age animation), video game player, Enya enthusiast, devotee of classical music (Mozart, Sibelius, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and others), Hair/Classic/80s Rock fan, beer connoisseur, gym goer, former Slow Pitch Softball Player, and traveler.

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