Brooks Robinson died yesterday. Growing up a Reds fan, I should have hated Brooks Robinson the player. But I didn’t.
He single-handedly destroyed Cincinnati in the 1970 World Series, making sparkling play after sparkling play at third, killing rallies, ripping out the hearts of Reds fans.
That World Series, he showed why he would win sixteen Gold Glove awards as a third basemen in his twenty-three-year career. He wasn’t just the greatest third baseman ever, he may have been the greatest fielder ever.
If he wasn’t killing the Reds with his glove, he was doing it with his bat. In Baltimore’s four-games-to-one Series win, Brooks Robinson went 9-for-21, batting .429, with an OPS of 1.238. He hit two home runs and drove in six.
He won the 1970 World Series for the Baltimore Orioles, winning the World Series MVP in the process. If you look at highlight reels from the 1970 World Series, it’s all just clips of Brooks Robinson. It’s almost as if he alone beat the Reds, which he basically did.
Some guys pitched for Baltimore that World Series, I’m sure. And I would imagine other guys batted for the Orioles, because rarely does one player hit in all nine positions. But whoever else was on that team was overshaded by Brooks.
I was a teenager then and I watched him dismantle my favorite team and all I could do was like him more. Greatness repels hate.
Apparently, he was an even greater person than he was a ballplayer. Eric Nadel told a story last night on the radio about when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. At the ceremony, Brooks Robinson called him over. He told Nadel, “Tell Adrian Beltre I watch every Rangers game because I love watching him play third base.”
Nadel said that when he told Adrian, Beltre was humbled and visibly moved. “Brooks Robinson said that about me?”
That is why baseball touches so many lives. It’s the stories of generations handing the baton to generations. Of fathers and sons. Fathers and daughters. And Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers.