I recently got to do a Q&A with legendary Orioles third baseman and Hall of Famer, Brooks Robinson.
Throughout his career, Brooks Robinson was known as "The Human Vacuum Cleaner," as he is known until this day as one of the greatest third baseman, much less infielders of all time. He played 23 seasons, all for the Orioles, setting major league career records for games, putouts, assists, chances, double plays and fielding percentage for a third baseman.
Though known for this steady glove, he hit 268 career home runs, at one time an American League record for third basemen. Robinson earned the league's MVP Award in 1964 and the World Series MVP in 1970, when he hit .429 and made a collection of defensive gems.
Below are a few questions that I asked him. I hope you enjoy the interview, and feel free to send me feedback at email@example.com
Oriole Post: How did you get started in the game of baseball, and looking back, did you ever think you’d ever end up in major leagues, much less end up in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York? What does the game mean to you now, and does it differ from when you played your first game?
Brooks Robinson: I got started in baseball at a young age. My dad was a terrific semi-pro player around Little Rock. He played a lot of fast pitch and was on several teams and I was the batboy for all of those teams. I just tagged along with him. He was really my hero when it came to baseball. I think when you are 13 or 14 years old, you are always thinking that you are going to become a big league baseball player. I don’t think you realize the fatality rate is so enormous. But that was always my dream. In 8th grade, in an English class I wrote a report on what my vocation would be when I grew up. I wrote mine on being a professional baseball player with the hours, salaries and pictures and things of that nature. So, that was my dream and there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a professional baseball player. I think I had some luck. I think I signed with the right team – the Orioles. They were a new team and they weren’t very good. They were the Old St. Louis Browns and they came to Baltimore in 1953. They lost 100 games in 1954 and were in the process of losing 100 more in 1955 when I signed.
I got to play at an early age. I got to play in the big leagues at the age of 18 after I completed my first season in York, PA in Class B ball. The big league team brought me back at the end of the season and I played the final 2 weeks of the season. I did pretty well my first year and I got a chance to play.
I never thought about Cooperstown NY or the Hall of Fame until after about 10 years in the big leagues. After we were back in the World Series in ’69, ’70 and ’71, I’d hear someone say “hey Brooks, you’ll be in the Hall of Fame.” I started thinking about it. When you retire, you have to wait 5 years and then you have almost 400 writers voting and you have to get 75% of the vote. I did in 1983 and it’s been a wonderful part of my retirement.
The game means the same to me now. I follow it as much as I can. It’s the most resilient game around. When you think about losing the ’94 World Series and the steroid issues and here this year Major League Baseball drew a record crowd of 73 million. Minor league baseball drew a record crowd of over 40 million. So, you see, the game of baseball is beautiful. It is the perfect game – only the players aren’t perfect but it seems to overcome all the obstacles. It’s played day-to-day for 162 games each year and it’s still the greatest game ever.
Oriole Post: Being a member of the Baltimore Orioles for 23 years, you were known for your fielding prowess and a ballplayer whose work ethic one was of the best in the game. For kids and teens playing the baseball, or even any sport, especially in the age of TV, sensationalism, ESPN highlights and the specter of drugs, what advice would you give to them?
Brooks Robinson: I did have a good work ethic but it was my love for the game more than anything else. I tell kids I’m in the Hall of Fame not because of my great ability but because of my love for the game. I didn’t have great ability like Aaron, Mays & Mantle but I had some ability. I could catch the ball. I worked at it. Hitting was the hardest part of the game for me to catch on to but my love for the game overrode everything else.
For young kids I would say, “look, I’ve been to Spring Training many, many times and I have seen players who I thought couldn’t miss being a big league player and then I’ve seen players and just kind of laughed and said how can this kid be a big league player and the next thing you know this kid is in the big leagues and he’s there for a long time.” It takes a lot of determination and love for the game and you need to play it the way it is suppose to be played. You look at Eckstein this year for the Cardinals. You’d look at him and think he didn’t have a lot of ability. But, hey, he’s the MVP in the World Series. He’s the classic case of a guy who worked against a lot of odds and made it big.
Oriole Post: You’ve gained notoriety for your Orioles career and contributions to the game of baseball, and this may be a personal question, but in your own words, what would you want your lasting legacy to be in the game and in life?
Brooks Robinson: I would like to be my lasting legacy to be someone who never wanted to do anything else in the whole world other than to be a big league baseball player. And, I loved to play the game. I wish I could have played longer than I did but I’m proud that I played longer with any one team in the history of baseball, along with Carl Yazstremski.
If there were any legacy it would be that I was a guy who loved the game and wanted to play.
*info and stats taken from the National Baseball Hall of Fame website...