Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr. (May 18, 1937 – September 26, 2023) was an American third baseman in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 to 1977. Nicknamed “the Human Vacuum Cleaner“, “Mr. Hoover“, and “Mr. Oriole“, he is generally considered to have been the greatest defensive third baseman in major league history. An 18-time All-Star, he won 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, setting a record later tied by Jim Kaat and broken by Greg Maddux. His 2,870 career games at third base not only exceeded the closest player by nearly 700 games when he retired but also remained the most games by any player in major league history at a single position. His 23 seasons spent with a single team set a major league record matched only by Carl Yastrzemski.
|Name||Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr.|
|Also Known as||“The Human Vacuum Cleaner” or “Mr. Hoover”,|
|Born on||May 18, 1937 (age 86)|
|Birthplace||Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.|
|Died||26 September 2023|
|MLB debut||September 17, 1955, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Last MLB appearance||August 13, 1977, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Runs Batted in||1357|
|Teams||Baltimore Orioles (1955-1977)|
Early Life/ Education
Robinson was born on May 18, 1937, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Brooks Calbert Sr. and Ethel Mae (née Denker) Robinson. His father worked for Colonial Bakery in Little Rock and later became a captain with the Little Rock Fire Department. Meanwhile, his mother worked for Sears Roebuck & Company before accepting a position with the state controller’s office. Young Brooks drew a salary himself from delivering the Arkansas Gazette on his bicycle, as well as operating the scoreboard and selling soft drinks at Lamar Porter Field.
Brooks Sr. had played second base for a semi-pro baseball team. He would play the game with his son during Brooks Jr.’s younger years. Growing up, Brooks Jr. rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals; Stan Musial’s favourite 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 192 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 that the school offered him a full scholarship. However, Robinson desired to become a professional baseball player. Lindsay Deal, who went to Capitol View Methodist Church with Robinson, had been a teammate of Baltimore Orioles manager Paul Richards on a minor league team, and he wrote a letter to Richards praising Robinson’s ability. “He’s no speed demon, but neither is he a truck horse,” Deal wrote. “Brooks has a lot of power, baseball savvy, and is always cool when the chips are down.” In 1955, three major league teams sent scouts to Little Rock to try to sign Robinson: the New York Giants, the Cincinnati Redlegs, and the Orioles. Each offered $4,000, but only Cincinnati and Baltimore were offering major league contracts. Robinson ultimately chose to sign with Baltimore because the Orioles had shown the most interest and had the most opportunities for young players to become everyday players on their roster. Art Ehlers was the scout who signed him.
Personal life/ Relationship & Children
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. He was so smitten with her that he kept ordering iced teas from her. Some of his teammates encouraged him to go talk to her. After drinking his third glass, he returned it to her in the galley. There he told her: “I want to tell you something. If any of these guys, the Baltimore Orioles, ask you for a date, tell ’em you don’t date married men. Understand? I’m the only single guy on the tea. Nearly half of the Orioles were single. Before the plane landed in Boston the two had made a date to go out. The two were married in her hometown of Windsor, Ontario, Canada on October 8, 1960. 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).
Brooks Robinson’s net worth is estimated to be $4 million. He earned his income through his baseball salary, endorsements, and investments.
During his career, Robinson received one of the highest salaries of any baseball player. It was one of the biggest contracts in baseball history when he signed a $1 million contract with the Orioles in 1965. He also made significant income from endorsements, including agreements with Rawlings, Wilson, and Chevrolet.
Robinson made several investments after his baseball career was over, including a golf course and a restaurant chain. He also served as a director on the boards of several corporations.
Robinson was a generous philanthropist who gave millions of dollars to charities and educational organizations. In 1990, he founded the Brooks Robinson Foundation to support helping underprivileged kids get the education they deserve.
Robinson’s jersey number (5) was retired by the Orioles on April 14, 1978. In 1983, Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of 16 players to have been honoured on the first ballot since the inaugural class of 1936. Coincidentally, Kell got in the same year. “It was unbelievable that two kids raised just 90 miles apart, and with the same churchgoing backgrounds and the same ideals, would go into the Hall of Fame the same day,” Kell said. “You couldn’t write the script any better.” Brooks and Frank were the first members of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame in 1977, and Brooks was selected to the Arkansas Hall of Fame the following year. Robinson and former Baltimore Colts football player Johnny Unitas had plaques in their honour in the lobby of Memorial Stadium. When the Orioles played their last game there on October 6, 1991, Robinson and Unitas were invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitches. Robinson threw a baseball, while Unitas threw a football. After the game, Robinson led 119 former Oriole players in uniform out onto the field, where they took their old positions.
In 1999, Robinson ranked Number 80 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Fans elected Robinson to the All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team in 2008; Robinson accumulated the most votes of any player elected. In 2015, Robinson was selected as one of the Orioles Franchise Four, recognizing the four greatest living players in Orioles history, along with Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, and Cal Ripken Jr. He was the 2020 National Baseball Hall of Fame Recipient of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award for his service in the Vietnam War.
Robinson has won several awards not specifically for baseball players as well. In 1984, he was presented with the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. He was awarded the Silver Beaver Award by the Boy Scouts of America in 1990. Radio Tower Drive, a road in Pikesville, Maryland, was renamed Brooks Robinson Drive in honour of Robinson’s 70th birthday on May 16, 2007.
Health and Death
Robinson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, but it was discovered early, and treatments were successful. In 2010, doctors performed a large abdominal operation on Robinson. While recovering from it, he developed an infection on March 31, 2011, and spent nearly a month in the hospital. Even after he was released, further complications with the condition left him weakened for the rest of the year.
In January 2012, Robinson attended a charity banquet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in South Florida. While sitting on the third level of a raised platform on a stage, he leaned backwards, and his chair fell off the platform, resulting in another month-long hospital stay and more rehab. In April 2014, Robinson and his attorneys sought a $9.9 million settlement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a result of the accident.
Robinson died from heart disease at his home in Owings Mills on September 26, 2023, at age 86.