Brooks Robinson was a legendary American baseball player widely regarded as one of the greatest third basemen in the sport’s history. Born May 18, 1937, in Little Rock, Arkansas, as Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr., he enjoyed a remarkable career in Major League Baseball (MLB). He became an iconic figure in the world of sports.
Robinson grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and developed a passion for baseball at a young age. His father worked for Colonial Bakery in Little Rock and later became a Little Rock Fire Department Captain. Meanwhile, his mother worked for Sears Roebuck & Company before accepting a position with the state controller’s office. He attended Little Rock Central High School, where he excelled in baseball and basketball. Brooks Sr. played second base for a semi-pro baseball team.
Growing up, Brooks Jr. rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals with Stan Musial as his favorite player. In high school, he played American Legion Baseball for the M. M. Eberts Post No. 1 Doughboys, among the greatest American Legion teams in that part of the country. The team reached the regional finals in 1952 when Robinson was 15. They then advanced to the sectional tournament in 1953. Robinson graduated from Little Rock Central High School on May 27, 1955, impressing the University of Arkansas enough with his basketball ability.
The school offered him a full scholarship but he declined to become a professional baseball player. Robinson was signed by the Baltimore Orioles organization as an amateur free agent in 1955, marking the beginning of his professional baseball journey. After some games in the minor leagues including the Vancouver Mounties, Robinson made his first appearance with the Orioles on September 17, 1955, at Memorial Stadium against the Washington Senators, batting sixth in the lineup.
He had two hits in four at-bats, singling in the fourth inning against Chuck Stobbs for his first hit before driving in a run on a single in the eighth inning in the 3–1 win. After that, he slumped and ended up on the bench for the remainder of the season.
Those American League pitchers made me look like just what I was—a young, green, immature eighteen-year-old who’d been lucky that first day against WashingtonBrooks Robinson
Robinson met his future wife, Constance Louise “Connie” Butcher, on an Orioles team flight from Kansas City to Boston in July 1959, where she was working as a flight attendant for United Airlines. They resided in Owings Mills, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. They had four children: Brooks David (b. 1961), Chris (b. 1963), Michael (b. 1964), and Diana (b. 1968). Raised a Methodist, in 1970 Robinson converted to Catholicism, his wife’s faith.
Coming of age before the free agent era, Robinson spent his entire 23-year career with the Orioles. He almost single-handedly helped Baltimore defeat Cincinnati in the 1970 World Series and homered in Game 1 of the Orioles’ 1966 sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers for their first crown. Robinson participated in 18 All-Star Games and earned the 1964 AL Most Valuable Player award after batting .318 with 28 home runs and a league-leading 118 RBIs. He finished his career with 268 homers, 1,357 RBIs, and a respectable .267 batting average in 2,896 career games.
Great player, great guy on the field, great guy off. Respectful, kind, and you don’t meet too many guys like that. Brooks was a genuine person. There was no acting. Brooks was just a genuine person.Jim Palmer – Orioles Hall of Famer
Known as the “Human Vacuum Cleaner,” Robinson won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves — second only to pitcher Greg Maddux’s (18) for most by a player at one position. Robinson also places third in career defensive WAR at 39.1 behind shortstops Ozzie Smith (44.2) and Mark Belanger (39.5), who was Robinson’s teammate for 13 years with the Orioles. Ripken was known as The Iron Man because he played in 2,632 consecutive games, but Robinson wasn’t fond of sitting on the bench, either.
I’m a guy who just wanted to see his name in the lineup everyday. To me, baseball was a passion to the point of obsession.Brooks Robinson
From 1960-1975, he played in at least 152 games in 14 seasons and in 144 games the other two years. Robinson cemented his place in MLB history during the 1970 World Series, making one dazzling play after another at the position known as the hot corner because of how many balls are hit there. He also batted .429 with a pair of home runs to lead the Orioles to a 4-1 series win.
After his retirement, Robinson remained active in baseball and served as an Orioles broadcaster and president of the MLB Players Alumni Association. Robinson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. One of Robinson’s biggest hobbies was reading; while he was with the Orioles, he was a part of multiple book clubs. “Books about the Civil War and about World War II especially appeal to me,” he wrote in his 1974 autobiography. He also enjoyed country western music.
I’m just sad. Another great one is called to heaven. They got some all-stars up there. He was really nice to me when I was a rookie with the Braves. We used to barnstorm with him all the time and he was a real gentleman. … I never heard anything negative about him, ever. And he was on a team that with the Orioles had a number of African-American players. I think they had 10 or 12. They all loved him. That’s saying a lot. Especially back in that day.Dusty Baker
Tony Reid Chatted with Brooks Robinson
Q … You are one of the most revered athletes and considered around the community as one of the nicest players around. How did you become such a nice guy?
A… It wasn’t hard. I was raised that way. I was telling somebody on a different subject, I enjoy people and I enjoy being around them. I think I owed something to the public and I tried to do as much as I could. I was fortunate to play for one team my whole life. I started coming here [Baltimore] in 1955 and I am still here. It has worked out well.
Today is an incredibly sad day for Baltimore and baseball fans everywhere. Brooks was Mr. Oriole. He was beloved and rightfully so. His historic career on the field pales to the impact he’s made on so many of us …Cal Ripken Jr.
In his later years, Robinson generously auctioned off most of his extensive memorabilia collection, with the proceeds benefiting the Constance and Brooks Robinson Foundation, dedicated to supporting worthy causes. Robinson died from heart disease at his home in Owings Mills on September 26, 2023, at age 86.
- The MLB Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) is a non-profit organization composed of former Major League Baseball players. Founded in 1982, the MLBPAA aims to promote camaraderie among former players, engage in philanthropic efforts, and foster relationships between former players and the current generation of baseball stars. This association hosts various events, such as charity games and youth baseball clinics, to give back to the community and support charitable causes. Additionally, the MLBPAA provides opportunities for former players to stay connected with the sport and continue their involvement in baseball-related activities post-retirement. [Back]
- The Constance and Brooks Robinson Foundation is a charitable organization founded by legendary baseball player Brooks Robinson and his wife Constance. The foundation is dedicated to supporting various charitable causes, including healthcare, education, and youth development initiatives. Through their philanthropic efforts, the Robinsons aim to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities in need, particularly in the Baltimore, Maryland, area, where Brooks Robinson spent the majority of his baseball career with the Baltimore Orioles. The foundation conducts fundraising events and partners with other organizations to provide financial assistance to those in need and promote a better quality of life. [Back]
- “Brooks Robinson, legendary O’s third baseman, dies at 86” (September 26th, 2023) https://www.mlb.com/news/brooks-robinson-dies-at-86
- “Hall of Fame 3B, Orioles legend Brooks Robinson dies at 86” (Sep 26, 2023) https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/38498947/hall-fame-3b-orioles-legend-brooks-robinson-dies-86
- “Orioles’ star third baseman Brooks Robinson dies at 86” (September 26, 2023) https://www.reuters.com/sports/baseball/orioles-star-third-baseman-brooks-robinson-dies-86-2023-09-26/
- “Brooks Robinson” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooks_Robinson
- “Baltimore’s beloved Brooks Robinson, Catholic convert, dies at 86” (September 27, 2023) https://catholicreview.org/baltimores-beloved-brooks-robinson-catholic-convert-dies-at-86/
- Baseball-Reference. (n.d.). Brooks Robinson. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/robinbr01.shtml
- National Baseball Hall of Fame. (n.d.). Brooks Robinson. https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/robinson-brooks
- Society for American Baseball Research. (n.d.). Brooks Robinson. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/brooks-robinson/
- “Beloved Brooks Robinson talks rookie cards, autographs and why he’s such a nice guy” (May 11, 2022) https://sportscollectorsdigest.com/news/brooks-robinson-cards-memorabilia-autographs-interview-baltimore-orioles
- “5 reminders that Brooks Robinson was one of the best third basemen of all-time” (September 26, 2023) https://ftw.usatoday.com/lists/brooks-robinson-best-third-basemen-orioles-obit
- “Brooks Robinson cause of death: What did Orioles Legend die of?” (September 27, 2023) https://www.marca.com/en/mlb/baltimore-orioles/2023/09/27/6513639aca4741371c8b45c4.html
- MLB Players Alumni Association. (n.d.). About MLBPAA. https://www.mlbpaalumni.com/about-us
- Constance and Brooks Robinson Foundation. (n.d.). About Us. https://www.constanceandbrooksrobinsonfoundation.org/about-us