In the lobby of the hotel in Memphis, I saw a woman wearing a shirt in a familiar orange color. It had a big number 5 on the back. I have to admit, I stared at her for a little bit until she got close enough for me to read the name above the 5: Robinson. Was this a Brooks Robinson fan in Memphis? When she finally turned around it was confirmed. She was definitely wearing an Orioles shirt. I was among my people.
The woman in the Robinson shirt had jarred a memory. Wasn’t Brooks from Arkansas? I looked it up on my handy-dandy cell phone and, sure enough, Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson grew up in Little Rock, AR, and attended Little Rock Senior High School (later renamed Little Rock Central High School), before being recruited by the Baltimore Orioles. How convenient that I was heading to Little Rock the very next day.
I immediately hatched a plan. I’d wanted to see Central High School anyway, and now that I knew of its link to one of my baseball heroes, it became a requirement to see it. And, according to my map, it wasn’t too far from Lamar Porter Field, where Brooks had spent much of his time growing up. He worked in the concession stand, operated the scoreboard, and even won a bubble gum bubble blowing contest there (when he was 10). Later, Brooks’ American Legion baseball team, the Doughboys, also played there.
Because Little Rock Senior High School did not have a baseball team when Brooks was there, he played American Legion baseball for the M.M. Eberts Post No. 1 between 1951 and 1955. They won the Arkansas American Legion baseball championship in 1952 and 1953.
So, my BBFF (best baseball friend forever) and I found Lamar Porter Field and Little Rock Central High School before continuing our Southern Baseball Adventures at the Clinton Presidential Library and the Arkansas Travelers (more on that later!). It was amazing to walk in Brooks’ footsteps in Little Rock. (Although, I have to admit I was a little disappointed there was no plaque at Lamar Porter Field announcing, “Brooks Played Here.”) And the massive Central High School was awe-inspiring – and not just because Brooks studied there.