A tip of the cap to a base­ball leg­end

Record Observer - - Opinion -

In his play­ing days, they called him “The Hu­man Vac­uum Cleaner.” And right­fully so, since Bal­ti­more Ori­oles third base­man Brooks Robin­son won 16 con­sec­u­tive Gold Gloves for his de­fen­sive prow­ess.

He spent his en­tire 23-year ca­reer with the Ori­oles, and at one time led the team in ca­reer home runs. He won the MVP award in the Amer­i­can League in 1964, and helped power Bal­ti­more to World Se­ries cham­pi­onships in 1966 and 1970 dur­ing the team’s glory days, in which they reached the Fall Classic four times in a six-year span. He was elected to the Base­ball Hall of Fame in 1983.

Robin­son, who was the face of the fran­chise be­fore there was ever a Cal Rip­ken Jr. or a Manny Machado, cel­e­brated his 80th birth­day Thurs­day, May 18, 2017. And we sa­lute him.

When he was home in Bal­ti­more dur­ing his ca­reer, he got away from it all by bring­ing his chil­dren to the Eastern Shore, where he stayed at Har­ri­son’s Ch­e­sa­peake House on Til­gh­man Is­land. He and his sons be­came friends with the Har­ri­son fam­ily. Robin­son and his son Brooks Jr. vis­ited in 2014. “Yes, we’ve been com­ing down here for 40 years,” Brooks Robin­son Jr. said dur­ing that visit.

“I haven’t been down here for a long, long time but Cap­tain Buddy and I — we go back a long way,” Robin­son said. ”I’m happy to be here.”

“Young Buddy, he’s been great to me over the years,” Robin­son said. “He’s been catch­ing all the fish and I’ve been claim­ing them.”

Robin­son is one of the own­ers of the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs, the area’s ball­club in the in­de­pen­dent At­lantic League.

As he was ap­proach­ing his 70th birth­day a decade ago, the Blue Crabs were gear­ing up for their in­au­gu­ral sea­son. Robin­son and an en­tourage from the new ball­club went on some­thing of a barn­storm­ing tour through south­ern Mary­land to whip up in­ter­est — and sea­son ticket sales.

First, he vis­ited Patux­ent River Naval Air Sta­tion, where one lucky fan won a print of an iconic Nor­man Rock­well oil paint­ing of Robin­son au­to­graph­ing a base­ball for an ex­cited young boy. When Robin­son signed the print for the Pax con­test win­ner, the fan was amazed to see that just as in the paint­ing, the third base­man au­to­graphed it left-handed. Though he bat­ted and threw righthanded, Robin­son is a nat­u­ral lefty — which may ac­count some­what for his leg­endary hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion in the field and at the plate.

Then, Robin­son and his Blue Crabs posse stopped at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land cam­pus in Prince Fred­er­ick. Robin­son re­galed the crowd with some old base­ball yarns he had cer­tainly spun a thou­sand times be­fore at ban­quets, rib­bon-cut­tings and county fairs, but he told those old chest­nuts with a com­pelling en­thu­si­asm that held their at­ten­tion rapt. Then, the CSM base­ball team pre­sented him with a Hawks jer­sey — of course, with No. 5 on it.

The last stop on the tour was the sta­dium it­self, where the grounds crew was lay­ing the turf on the in­field and out­field in large car­pets of sod. There, in an ex­clu­sive and ex­tended con­ver­sa­tion with one of our sis­ter news­pa­pers, Robin­son re­called high­lights of his play­ing ca­reer, and ex­pressed great zeal for the Blue Crabs and the At­lantic League. “It’s im­por­tant to keep look­ing for­ward,” he said then. “It was a great run with the Ori­oles, but it’s just as ex­cit­ing to see this new tal­ent de­velop and blos­som here in South­ern Mary­land. The game has changed a lot in some ways, but fun­da­men­tally, it’s the same as it’s al­ways been.”

Robin­son is a class act, and al­ways has been.

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