A Wonderful Story About Brooks Robinson
This crooked list lives towards the end of my red notebook:
This podcast is roughly a three-minute story about the seventh man on that list, Brooks Robinson. And it's a lovely one, too.
The two most spectacular positions on the baseball field are, to me (and in no-particular-though-I-am-ALWAYS-going-back-and-forth order), right field and third base. They're also connected by one of the best plays in the game: the throw from the right field corner to third. Sometimes, in my idle YouTube moments, I watch video after video after video of the best best best who ever did it: Roberto Clemente (with Vladimir Guerrero and Ichiro rounding out the podium). And then I move to third base, where the dive into foul territory and the throw across the diamond offer a form of poetry whose beauty nobody could have anticipated.
This podcast is here because Brooks was inducted into the Hall of Fame on this day in 1983, and he's a player and a person I've loved for a number of reasons:
- He played third base.
- And excellently EXCELLENTLY.
- His nickname: "The Human Vacuum Cleaner" or "Mr. Hoover."
- He wore number 5 (which he shares with perhaps the player I wished I'd have seen most of all, Joe DiMaggio).
- Said Gordon Beard, "New York named a candy bar after Reggie Jackson. In Baltimore, people named their children after him."
- 16-time Gold Glove winner; 2-time World Series Champion; 1-time World Series MVP; 18-time All Star; 1-time All Star MVP; 1-time League MVP; Hall of Famer.
- Said Sparky Anderson (manager of the Cincinnati Reds): "He can throw his glove out there and it will start ten double plays by itself."
- Stories like the one here, and others, too: he was from the south, and at a time when Baltimore and baseball were both still very much segregated (as was the entire country), Brooks stood tall for integration in a way that I learned about last year.
A wonderful man who—if I could will it—would let me sit on his glove-side for an inning or two, peppering him with questions about Frank Robinson, what it was like to bat against Sandy Koufax, what his favorite Orioles uniform was, who he watched as a kid, who he watches now, his favorite conversation at the pitcher's mound, whose jersey he'd wear if he had to pick—and yes yes, you have to pick—what Baltimore was like in the Civil Rights era, what his favorite stadium to play in was...