I was heading home this morning, after dropping my son off at school, and as usual, was listening to Drew and Glenn on “The Morning Reaction.” As they approached the 9 o’clock hour, Drew mentioned something that got my immediate attention. According to those in the know whom Drew has spoken with, the health of Baltimore Orioles’ legend Brooks Robinson, may be failing. It took me a second or two to fully digest what Drew was saying, but once I did, I really thought long and hard about what Brooks means to this city, this baseball team, and the MILLIONS of fans who either watched Brooks play, or heard the tales, as I have, that have been told from our fathers and grandfathers. And the one thing that I kept coming back to, is that it’s time for this organization, The Baltimore Orioles, and their owner, to set aside whatever differences the two sides may have, and properly honor Mr. Oriole, the way a true legend is supposed to be honored. And I have the answer for them.
But first, I’m going to share with you how I feel about Mr. Robinson. I was born in 1976, so those of you who didn’t graduate from City College or Perry Hall High, can do the math and know that I never got to see Brooks play. He retired in August of 1977, after playing 23 seasons in a Baltimore Orioles’ uniform, the longest tenure of any professional athlete in this city’s sports history. Having said that, I benefited from the fact that I resided with one of Brooks’ biggest fans for more then half my life…that would be my father. To this day, dad will tell tales of the 1960 O’s “Kiddie Korps”, which was really the first season in which others around the MLB started to take notice of the kid who would become the greatest third baseman of all time. Brooks won his first of 16 Gold Gloves, and was elected to his first of 18 All Star Games as the Baby Birds experienced their first real pennant chase since moving to Baltimore from St. Louis prior to the 1954 season. Brooks’ accomplishments are well documented, but the true value of Brooks Robinson transcends stats and on field accomplishments. As Associated Press and former Baltimore Sun sportswriter Gordon Beard stated, “Brooks never had a candy bar named after him, in Baltimore, people named their children after him.” A good friend of mine, and longtime fellow police officer Brian Miller will tell you all day that he named his oldest son, Brooks Miller, after his favorite baseball player of all time. Even my grandfather, who was not one of your biggest baseball fans, on the rare occasion he would talk baseball, usually spoke of watching Brooks play, and demonstrated his reverence for Brooks, through his tales.
That’s what Brooks represents to this city and baseball fans across the country. With all do respect to Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer, he’s the Orioles’ equivalent to Johnny Unitas. What Unitas means, and meant, to not just the Colts, but to Baltimore football in general, that’s what Brooks represents on the Orioles’ side. He’s the link to the “Old Orioles”. The Orioles who showed up in Baltimore, and had to endure several years of second division baseball in the American League, before they became the, as Earl Weaver put it, “The best damn team in baseball.” Brooks was there. And along the way, he made a home in the community, he worked in the offseason in the community, and after he retired, he continued his business ventures and charity work within the Baltimore community. He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1937, but he became a Baltimorean. Like Unitas from Pittsburgh, Brooks became Baltimore’s adopted son. The Brooks Robinson that I remember most, was the color voice of Orioles’ baseball alongside Chuck Thompson for the Oriole TV broadcasts. To me, Chuck and Brooks WAS what I remember most about Orioles baseball during my childhood. With all do respect to Jon Miller, it started, for me, with Chuck and Brooks.
Anyone that knows me, knows that my favorite Oriole of all time, is Cal Ripken, Jr. Mostly because Cal’s career paralleled my childhood, and eventually ended in my adult life. I watched Cal’s entire career unfold, and essentially grew up with Cal. But if you ask me who the greatest Oriole of all time is, hands down, I would say that it’s Brooks. And you saw that back in May when members of the New York Yankees took time out to say Happy Birthday to Brooks during a trip here in Baltimore. One of the classiest moments was when Derek Jeter gave his birthday wishes, and referred to Brooks as, “Mr. Robinson.” To me, a lifelong Baltimore sports fan who hates the Yankees, that was cool. We all took notice back in late March when Brooks was admitted to GBMC for emergency surgery when he developed an infection and fever. For two weeks, fans from around the country sent well wishes to Brooks, an indication of how much he is loved as a legend, and also, that even legends are mortal. Which brings me to the main point of this blog.
The Orioles organization, need to get their heads out of their asses, and honor the greatest Oriole of all time.
And I have the answer for them. I know how they can do it. Now, I never went to college, and believe it or not, I know less then Greg Bader when it comes to marketing and public relations, but I have the answer….and the Orioles can use it. I don’t want a cent for the idea, I just want to see Brooks honored the way he should be, while he is still with us. And I’ll kind of point to the Ravens as proof that it’s the right thing to do.
First of all, Johnny Unitas never played a down for the Baltimore Ravens. He was the Colts QB from 1956-1972, and played his final season with the San Diego Chargers in 1973 because Bob Irsay was a drunken piece of garbage owner who didn’t give a damn about Colt tradition or legacy. Not sure about Angelos’ drinking habits, but the other stuff sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But what the Ravens learned real quick upon their arrival in town is what Johnny U, and for that matter, the old Colts represented to this community, this city, and to the tradition of Baltimore football. You can’t mention Baltimore football without including Unitas. And they erected a statue in his honor outside of M&T Bank Stadium. They went out of their way, while he was alive, to pay tribute to him whenever they could. Johnny U was as much a part of Ravens’ football, as he used to be for the old Colts, just in a different capacity.
The Orioles??? Their current leaders go out of their way to fight with members of the media and to distance themselves from the glorious past and tradition of Orioles baseball. They’ve managed to alienate past legends like Brooks and Frank, and in some respects, Cal and Eddie. They have a statue on their stadium grounds that honors a man who made his living by playing for two of the most hated baseball cities among Orioles’ fans, Boston and New York. Look, I know that Babe Ruth was born on Emory Street, and many consider him the greatest ballplayer ever, and that deserves recognition from his hometown. But what did he do for the City of Baltimore? How did he treat his hometown while he was gaining his fortune and fame in Boston and New York? Not blaming Babe by any stretch, because from what I understand, he loved children and did a ton for children’s charities throughout the country. But he’s New York’s hero. Not Baltimore’s. Brooks Robinson…is Baltimore’s legend. He’s Baltimore’s adopted son, much like the Babe is New York’s greatest adopted son. And it’s time the Orioles honor him….and here is how they can do it:
– First, pick a home weekend series against any team not named Boston or New York, so they can assure that the stadium will be filled with mostly Oriole fans, and announce that the weekend with be “A Celebration of Brooks Robinson”.
– Second, designate Friday and Saturday as special giveaway days such as, Brooks Robinson t-shirt night, Brooks bobble head night, Brooks photo night, and spend Friday and Saturday night honoring Brooks by having former team mates throw out the first pitch, and show non stop Brooks highlights between innings.
– Third, before the Sunday afternoon game, hold a ceremony before the game to honor Brooks with a plaque that will sit in the dugout, much like they did with Earl and Cal, Sr. Hopefully, Mr. Robinson’s health will allow him to attend, but if not, designate close family members or Oriole VIP’s such as Cal, Eddie, Boog, Palmer, etc., to participate. During the ceremony, you announce two things. A) Announce that Eutaw Street, and a portion of 33rd Street, will be renamed “Brooks Robinson Way” and “Brooks Robinson Drive”, respectively B) Announce that plans are in the works for a statue of Brooks to be erected on the parking lot side Eutaw Street entrance, near the site that honors Memorial Stadium. And make it so fans entering the stadium can rub Brooks’ glove, or cleat for good luck, much like they do with Johnny Unitas’ statue at M&T Bank Stadium.
It really is that simple. And all they have to do is market that weekend as Brooks Robinson Weekend, and they will get 100,000 fans for that series. That’s what Brooks means to these fans. That’s what Brooks means to this team. That’s what Brooks means, period. Brooks Robinson is the greatest Oriole to ever wear the orange and black.
And he needs to be honored properly, while he is still with us. I challenge the Orioles to do the right thing.
Thank you, Mr. Robinson, this one’s for you.