BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Brooks Robinson–immortalized in bronze. The Hall of Fame third-baseman looks back on his 23 seasons with the Orioles at a special statue unveiling at Camden Yards.
WJZ has the speech, and reaction from other O’s legends.
“Thank you, thank you, and I promise you, this will be the last ‘thank you’ of my career. I know Paul Blair, the last six or seven years we played together would always say, ‘Well, when’s your next Brooks Robinson day?’ This is it Pauly, you don’t have to do that anymore. Thank you very much. And I just want to say to all of you fans here, I don’t like to call you fans, I like to call you friends. You have been so wonderful to me and my wife since I came to Baltimore back in 1955. I just want to thank all of you, I appreciate it very much and it’s great to see everyone here in a joyous mood.
Anyway…how ‘bout them O’s?! (cheers)…..What a year, I’m telling you. Of course Buck has more important things to do, and the players, we really appreciate them coming out for every ceremony we’ve had. I just want to say to Buck and the players, you’ve had a magnificent year and, as you know, we said the Yankees lost, that’s even better news. Also Dan Duquette and his staff have done a great job. Of all the teams I’ve seen over the years, you can really say this was a team effort. It really has been, it’s been sensational. And I say to you fans, this is just like the playoffs right now. I say just sit back enjoy it and pull for the Orioles to win.
Lou [Angelos], I appreciate that great introduction and I appreciate you and your family for the generosity in making this possible. And also to thank Toby Mendez, you are a most talented and gifted artist. All these statues are simply magnificent. I thank you Charles, thank you very much Charles; and Roy for making this a special day for me and all those kind words. I really appreciate your friendship all these years.
You know you’ve all ready said that Roy was a rookie, 15 or 16 years old when he became the bat boy, but he was great. You know, he’s got a great act. He goes to Las Vegas, I’ve seen it many times; he really puts on a wonderful show. We used to get on the bus at Miami to go to Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm Beach and Roy the bat boy would be on the bus and he’d be doing impersonations of Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell and he would crack us up for the whole time. But we had a few good times with him too, I can remember. The first game we played, exhibition game I ran into Roy in the clubhouse, I said, ‘Roy! The game’s supposed to start and the umpires want you to get the key to the batter’s box.’ And he says ‘Okay’, so I say ‘Go ask Jim Frey’ so he runs and says ‘Jim, the umpires need the key to the batter’s box’, he says ‘I don’t have it’ so he says ‘Go see so and so’. So Roy runs and says, ‘We have to have the key to the batter’s box! I don’t know where it is!’ He told us five or six times and finally he comes back to me and says, ‘No one has the key!’. I say ‘Roy, there ain’t no key to the batter’s box!’, so we had a good time with him.
Above all, I thank god for my life and for sending me an angel into my life over a half century ago. That angel has been my beautiful wife, Connie. She has stood by me with total love, devotion and endurance throughout our marriage. She has given me four wonderful children, whom she raised almost entirely by herself. And I know you three guys out there took full advantage of your mother because I wasn’t there. This has been no easy task darling, thank you so much for sticking with me. At this time I would like to introduce my four children and if you’d please stand; Brooks David, Christopher, Michael and my beautiful daughter Diana. Nine of my 10 grandchildren are here, and I’d ask them to stand up too to see how pretty they really are, stand up please. Thank you. Also I’d like to thank my brother Gary from Dallas, Texas for coming in. And some of Connie’s family who made the trip from Michigan and Canada, we really appreciate that, you helped make this a very special day.
You know I’ve been thinking about how long that I was with the Baltimore Orioles as a player and how long I’ve been in Baltimore. And as you know, the Orioles came to town in 1954, and I signed with the Orioles in 1955. I think it was John Eisenberg, a sports columnist with the Baltimore paper, maybe just freelanced around, but he wrote a book about the history of the Orioles. In reading John’s book, I found out that I’ve seen every Oriole player in the history of the Orioles. And that goes back for a lot of memories, there’s only about four or five players that I did not see in a uniform. So you see I do have a lot of wonderful memories, and most of them are sitting right out there. I had a, I was fortunate to play at the best of the times with the greatest players, All-Stars at just about every position. As I look here, Boog Powell, where are you Boog? Oh! I don’t know how I missed you! The best friend that anyone could ever have, I love you Boog. You know, here’s a guy who had 400 home runs, almost 400 home runs, would have had 500 if he played in another ballpark somewhere. But the problem is, he never won a Gold Glove. And I’m here to tell you, this guy could field. Great hands, he never let me forget it. You know, every time I’d make a bad throw to Boog he’d have to scoop it out of the dirt, well he’d come in and put a little mark on the wall. So at the end of the year he would come over and he would say ‘15 errors I saved for Brooks’, he’d come to me and say ‘Brooks, give me that golden glove, man’. Plus, he never let me forget that he had more stolen bases then me. I tell you, Boog, I looked for that signal my whole career and I never got it.
Jim Palmer, the greatest Oriole pitcher in the history, and one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball. Three-time Cy Young and I’m telling you, he was 20-years old facing 30-year old Sandy Koufax back in ’66 and he got the best of Koufax, that was the nice part about it. And Paul Blair, my good friend, Paul Blair. I guess if you ask a lot of people, the consensus of the best center fielder you’ve ever seen they would come back with, ‘Oh, Willie Mays’, well I’m here to tell you Paul Blair was Willie Mays. And he could hit, too.
And of course if you want to go way back, we recalled, our first real good year where we won a lot of games, chased the Yankees right down to the wire. That was 1960 and one of the head starlets of that pitching staff was Milt Pappas from Detroit, signed with the Orioles right before, or after I did. So, Milty we’re glad to see you, won over 100 games in the American League, went to the National League and won 100, too. Then there’s my good friend Ronnie Hanson, Ronnie, where are you pal. We roomed together, I signed in ’55 he signed in ’56, we roomed together for a couple years. 1960 was the Rookie of The Year for the Orioles.
Then there’s Frank Robinson, what can I say about this guy? Someone would ask me, ‘Who are the greatest players that you’ve ever seen in the history of the game?’, and I’d say, ‘Well you’ve got Mickey Mantle, you’ve got Hank Aaron and you’ve got Willie Mays, those are the three best. They could hit, hit with power, run, field, throw’. I want to tell you something, this guy should be right with them. He is just as good as they were. Then Eddie Murray, I call him tired, t-i-r-e-d. He came in, my last year was his first year. When he came I took him under my arm and told him how to hit. And he went on and got over 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, I taught you well Eddie. Then there’s the Earl of Baltimore, I can only tell you the reason I admire this manager. Earl signed way back when, way before me. But anyway, his one dream, he grew up in St. Louis, he wanted to play for the Cardinals. Signed with the Cardinals, never made it to the major leagues. But then he decided to manage. Went back to the minor leagues, started in D, C, B, AA, AAA, big leagues and he became a great manager and got into the hall of fame. Earl, you’re too much.
Of course, you know we all had a lot of fun with Earl, and he had a lot of fun with us. I know Paul Blair and Earl, they didn’t see eye-to-eye all the time. You know we’d get late in the game and we’re ahead by one run and Earl would say, Pauly always played really shallow, he said, ‘I want you to back up, I don’t want anyone to get a double in this situation’. And Pauly, he said that many times, but this one time we’re in Milwaukee, [Earl] said, ‘Pauly, back up, I don’t want anyone to hit a ball over your head’, so we come out in the 9th inning and we looked up and Paul was leaning up against the center field fence just like this. So Earl said, ‘No, come in; no, you’re too deep!’ But we had a lot of fun, Earl you’re unbelievable, thank you.
And Cal Ripken, what do you say about Cal Ripken? I was talking to Buck Showalter here a year ago and we were talking about someone, but he said, ‘You know, that guy’s just a baseball player’ and I said, ‘Buck, I haven’t heard that term in 40 years’. But back when I was growing up, that was the term someone used all the time, “That guy’s just a baseball player”. That is Cal Ripken, he was just a baseball player. And when I think of that, great instincts, never threw to the wrong base, always knows who’s running, always in the right place for a cut off, just on and on and on. But I saw Cal grow up here at the ballpark with his dad, come and shag balls. And I said right there, that is going to be a great player. Now how does anyone play as many games consecutively as Cal Ripken? Cal, nice to you see pal, thanks for coming out.
Al Bumbry is here. Al doesn’t know this, there’s one reason I really admire Al Bumbry. Not only was here the first guy to get 200 hits in an Oriole uniform, but this is a guy who spent a year in Vietnam as a Lieutenant, and had a company, a platoon, and he spent a year over there in Vietnam leading a platoon. Came back to Baltimore and had a great career.
Rick Dempsey, don’t know if he’s still here tonight. The dipper, there he is, my man. You know, this goes back to September of ‘77, I really should have retired a couple years before that, but you know you always think you can play, I mean that’s just the way it is. But anyway, Earl Weaver came to me and he said, ‘Well, Dempsey’s got to come back on the roster and we’re going to ask you to retire’, but that’s beside the point. But anyways, I retired that day, Dempsey went in to catch. Well, he struck out three times, had a horrible day and after the game was over I came up to his locker and I said, ‘Dipper, you mean I retired for that performance?’ But he went on to have a great career with the Orioles, the MVP in the 1983 World Series.
And I see my good friend Mike Bordick over here, he does the TV job, great job, Mike. Great instructor, great infielder working in the Oriole organization, he does a marvelous job. I appreciate you being here, Mike.
But anyway, I don’t know if I missed anyone, but I just want to tell you how much you fans mean to me. I love all of you. And I want to tell you, as I said before, this is like a playoff right now. I hope you go in and enjoy the game, and the Orioles come out winning. Thank you!”
BROOKS ROBINSON PRESS CONFERENCE:
On the day overall:
I’m glad it’s over. That’s my final goodbye. No more statues. No more big “say hello’s”.
On the statue court in centerfield:
It sure is. That is wonderful out there. I’ve admired some of the other ballparks that I’ve seen the statues in, Philadelphia and the Cubs, what they’re doing. Mr. Angelos’ generosity here is great. And Toby Mendez, I thought he did a fantastic job on all those statues out there.
On how the success of the current team affected the experience:
Oh my goodness, yeah. You don’t think we’d have that crowd out there tonight if they were 10 games out, do you? They have surpassed anything that any of us thought would happen. This has been a strange year. I said in my speech that in all my years, I’ve never seen anything like it. Running guys down, bringing them back, and running them down. The thing that I look at, when the Yankees brought someone up from Triple-A, those guys could play in the big leagues. And Boston, when they brought someone up, those guys could play in the big leagues. It looks like that’s just what happened to our team. When they bring someone up, they’re ready to play in the big leagues and that’s one reason they’re having this wonderful success.
On the reasons for the success of the current Orioles:
It has to go back to scouting and who you sign. Lew Ford, he started out in the Atlantic League this year and somebody thought this guy would be a good fit in the Orioles Triple-A. They brought him up, he did well, and he’s in the big leagues. It all goes back to scouting and signing your first round draft choice and your second round draft choice. We went for a stretch there, I know it had to be 25 or 30 years, that I wondered who’s making these choices. No one came to the big leagues. I saw something one time in the last 25 or 30 years, our first round draft choices, I didn’t see anyone I recognized. Now it’s just the opposite.
On what he’s most proud of during his career:
I think winning the MVP award in 1964. Talking about 162 games day in and day out and being able to say I was voted the Most Valuable Player in the league, that’s my number one thrill.
On the relationship with the fans:
It’s been amazing. Of course, I’ve been here a long, long time. As I said in my speech, I’ve seen every player who ever put on an Orioles uniform with the exception of four or five. One guy I didn’t get to meet and I wish I had was Billy Cox. He played third base for the Dodgers and was just a wonderful glove-man. I signed June 1 and they had just let him go. He passed away, but he lived up in Susquehanna in a small town which I’ve been through and I saw all his artifacts. But I never got to meet him. It’s only about four or five guys that I never saw put on an Oriole uniform.
On what went through his mind when seeing the statue:
It sure is very surreal. Those things are never going to go away unless they tear them down or something, but they don’t tear statues down too often. I just think this is a wonderful ballpark and it’s wonderful for the fans to have a look at the guys who really helped make this franchise and guys who are in the baseball Hall of Fame, which there’s 200 guys in there I guess. I couldn’t be happier being out there as one of them. I played at the right time. As I said before, I played with some great players. I saw the team when it was real bad and we kept getting better every year and almost won the pennant in 1960. It went right down to the wire. The Yankees came in here in ’60 on Labor Day. We were two games back and won all three of them. Then we ended up going to New York and they beat us for in a row and ended up going on to win 10 or 12 in a row. That’s when we really began winning games. It was exciting.
On comparing the current team to former teams:
Bullpen. This is a terrific bullpen. In my day, when a guy came out of the bullpen he might pitch three, four, five innings. It’s entirely different now. They just play the game a little differently than they did. I’m not saying which is right or wrong, but it sure worked out great for the Orioles to have that group coming out of here. Left-hander against right-hander, right-hander against…it makes a good match for what’s happened in the game.
On Manny Machado:
I like that kid playing third base. When you make a transition from short to third, it takes you a while to get adjusted. I think Cal Sr. told that to Cal when he came back to third. It’s going to take you a few games, 30-40 games, to get used to it over there. But he’s that good and it didn’t take him long to get acclimated to it. This kid, he can play anywhere. Got a great arm and great instinct, we’ve seen that, he’s got a great instinct for the ball. There’s a few things they can work on to make him better. I’m not trying to criticize him, but things like men on first and second, no away, where do you play? When do you know to go after a ball or not go after a ball? Things like that. He’s a terrific player. Nobody has really fooled him when it comes to hitting. He swings the bat and gets his hits.
On whether he’d like to be around the team more:
No, not really. I’m enjoying what I do right now, being part owner of Opening Day Partners. We have four teams in Lancaster and York. I broke ground for the new stadium in Lancaster eight years ago, then York. In Southern Maryland there’s a team, and then we have a great team in Texas called the Skeeters down there, the Sugarland Skeeters. They got mosquitoes down there that are, as Boog would say, “big as battleships.” I’m having too much fun doing that, and I don’t have a lot to do. I entertain people who might want jobs as coaches like Gary Gaetti and Rick Burns down in Sugarland. Roger Clemens threw a couple games there. I’m having fun, so that’s the main thing.
On the fans’ reaction:
I called all my friends and they showed up. I met a lot of people in my day, going here and going there. I still enjoy doing all those things and leading kind of a baseball life.
On his relationships with other players:
They’re special because they’re special memories. When you think back, we had the Baby Birds. Pappas, Estrada, Fisher and Steve Barber. That’s four guys that could really knock the bat out of your hands. They were terrific. I think Estrada won 18 games that year. Steve Barber might have thrown a no-hitter, I’m not sure. We had four great pitchers and that’s the reason we won a lot of ball games. It’s just kind of special. When memories click in, those are the kind of things I think about. Paul Richards, he was the greatest manager in the world. Ear got a lot of his nuances from him. He thought Paul Richards was the greatest too. I thought that Paul was the best baseball guy I had ever met. Fundamentals, he knew everything about every position and what made it tick. I was lucky to have Paul as a manager.
QUOTES ABOUT ROBINSON FROM OTHER O’S LEGENDS:
Eddie Murray: “It was great to play alongside Brooks in my first year and his final year. As a kid, we all knew about the great Brooks Robinson. It was a pleasure to become his friend and crab buddy after my baseball career.”
Earl Weaver: “When you’re talking about Brooks Robinson you are not only talking about one of the best third baseman that ever played the game of baseball, but about the man whose life came as close as possible to that of the man from Galilee. Not only was he loved in Baltimore for his feats on the field, but he is loved for his affection towards the fans and the numerous contributions he made for the community. What a privilege it was for me to have been his manager and how proud Connie and his children must be for all his accomplishments. A true Hall of Famer on the field and off.”
Jim Palmer: “Brooks was our Johnny Unitas. The consummate pro. Everybody who ever saw him play knows how great a player he was. You just don’t find people as gracious and humble as Brooks. I am so fortunate to have had him as a teammate and friend.”
Cal Ripken, Jr.: “Brooks is Mr. Oriole and it is wonderful to see him honored today. Like a lot of kids from Baltimore he was the Oriole I looked up to. My mom and dad pointed him out as a guy to admire, not only for what he did on the field but for what he represented off the field. Everyone loves Brooks and for good reason.”
BROOKS ROBINSON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:
“Mr. Oriole” spent 23 seasons with the Orioles and started 20 consecutive Opening Day games. He won the AL Most Valuable Player Award in 1964 and holds the record for most Gold Gloves by a non-pitcher with 16. His election to baseball’s Hall of Fame (in his first year of eligibility in 1983) was cemented with his performance against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 World Series, when he was named MVP and earned the nickname “Hoover” (as in vacuum cleaners) for his play in the field.
Brooks played in 19 All-Star games. He trails only Cal Ripken among the Orioles’ all-time leaders in games, at-bats, hits, doubles, RBI, runs, total bases and extra-base hits. In addition to his AL MVP Award in ’64 and his World Series MVP Award in ’70, he was the All-Star Game MVP in 1966 and was voted Most Valuable Oriole in ’60, ’62, ’64 and co-winner in ’71 with Frank Robinson. He also earned the Commissioner’s Trophy (now the Roberto Clemente Award) for exemplifying the game of baseball in 1972 and the Joe Cronin Award for significant achievement by an AL Player in 1977.
Brooks holds 10 major league fielding records and three American League records for third basemen, including highest lifetime fielding percentage (.971). He is 12th on the all-time list of games played, fourth in the AL and fifth in games played with one franchise.