Whether you want to or not, you do serve as a role model. People will always put more faith in baseball players than anyone else. ~ Brooks Robinson
One of my all-time favorite players, Brooks Robinson, “the Human Vacuum Cleaner,” turns 80 today! Robinson has always been loved by the community, as a 1964 Sports Illustrated article attests:
“Robinson’s warm personality wins him as much respect as his competitiveness and courage. He does nothing for effect. Bill Tanton, columnist for the Evening Sun, recalls the time he was on hand when Brooks went on a bowling party with some multiple sclerosis patients. ‘I’ve seen athletes in such situations before,’ Tanton says, ‘and the atmosphere is usually strained or even maudlin. But this time, everyone was at ease. You could tell Brooks was genuinely enjoying himself and, of course, they all adored him. He kidded them, and they kidded him right back—especially about his getting bald.'”
Robinson was an All-Star 18 times, won 16 gold gloves, won numerous other awards, and was even memorialized in a Norman Rockwell painting and highlighted in the Catholic Review. Not bad for a kid from Little Rock, AR.
A few years ago, I went on a pilgrimage to Little Rock to walk in the steps of the great Brooks Robinson. There were no big plaques or signs to let us know he’d grown up there. But what else would you expect from our quiet, unassuming here.
Happy Birthday, Brooks!
PS Check out the footage of Brooks at work:
And there’s this great comparison between Brooks and Manny:
Five is another important number in Orioles baseball history. Known as the “Human Vacuum Cleaner” and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983, third baseman Brooks Robinson remains one of Baltimore’s most beloved players. Brooks played for the O’s from 1955 to 1977. He was an All-Star 18 times, and was the MVP of the All-Star game in 1966. He was also AL MVP in 1966 and World Series MVP in 1970.The Orioles retired his number on April 14, 1978. Today Brooks can still be seen attending important Orioles events and is an owner of the independent Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
In August 2012, I visited Brooks’ hometown of Little Rock, AR, for the first time, seeing not only Lamar Porter Field, where he played during his youth, but also his alma mater, Little Rock Senior High School (later named Little Rock Central High School). It was pretty cool seeing where one of my idols came from. Although there were no big Brooks Robinson statues there like we have in Baltimore and York, PA. But maybe they’ll have one some day. After all, he’s that important.
I’ve written previously about Bobble Mania and my Bobble Quests. Recently, however, minor league teams have added a new one: The Gnome Quest. This evening, the Bowie Baysox had a Manny Machado gnome giveaway for the first 1,000 fans. From the line outside the stadium more than an hour before the game started, it would appear it was a hit. (Yes, I was in that line.)
It’s not surprising, then, that we like to collect all things Manny. This year alone, the Baysox have had three Manny-related giveaways: the Manny Machado bobblehead, the Manny Machado t-shirt, and, now, the Manny Machado Garden Gnome.
Not only do baseball fans love giveaways, we love Machado giveaways. I think this video from the Bowie Baysox pretty much proves it:
Ever been to Hot Springs, Arkansas? Me neither. But Brooks Robinson has – as well as Babe Ruth, Cool Papa Bell, Walter Johnson, Hank Aaron, Monte Irvin, Jackie Robinson, and other baseball greats. But why Hot Springs? And why Arkansas? A few weeks ago I promised to get back to you on that question. But I had to do more research. You see, I have to admit I used to confuse Hot Springs with Warm Springs (though, in my defense, FDR did visit Hot Springs at least once). But once I heard about the Hot Springs Baseball Trail, I knew I needed to learn more.
I must admit, in addition to wanting to see every ballpark in the country, I’ve been wanting to see every presidential library in the country. Fortunately, there are fewer of those. The Clinton Library was the second one I’ve been to. The building itself is a pretty nifty structure situated near the Arkansas River. Inside, there is an almost overwhelming number of exhibits chronicling Clinton’s 8-year presidency and the social history of the time.
But the most important thing there was, of course, the baseball exhibit. The exhibit includes a timeline of the Cardinals’ history and World Series appearances, information on famous team members, and a wall featuring Cardinals players from Arkansas. There was even one little picture of Brooks Robinson, in honor of his Little Rock roots.
In addition to the Cardinals exhibit, there were occasional mentions of baseball throughout the museum. The Clinton era included much of the Cal Ripken era so, much to my delight, Cal’s picture was displayed a few times throughout the museum as well.
Although the exhibit itself was merely about the St. Louis Cardinals, the sociologist in me can’t help but think about the link between sports and politics. Or the link between sports and economics, or history, or even architecture. I mean, what better way to draw us in and teach us a little history other than having a baseball-related exhibit?
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.