For a franchise that has produced many special players over the years and seen many others pass this way, to generations of O’s fans, no Oriole is beloved more than Brooks Robinson.
Simply stated, he was a Hall of Fame player and is a Hall of Fame person.
Over the years, thousands upon thousands of fans must have had a chance to meet Brooks, and probably every one came away blown away by the man’s kindness and warmth. He’s from Little Rock, Ark., but we have long since claimed him for our own in Baltimore.
Given another chance today to show him how we feel about him, no doubt many fans are going to show Brooks just that, during what figures to be the most emotional statue ceremony of them all.
Back during the summer of 1983, just weeks before he would be inducted at Cooperstown, the Hagerstown Suns were having Brooks out to make an appearance at a game, and they invited area media to come by and interview him.
As a young reporter then working at WFMD Radio in Frederick, Md., I jumped at the chance to meet my boyhood hero. On that Saturday, it rained hard, and I assumed the game would be rained out but, just in case, drove over the mountain to Municipal Stadium anyway.
Little did I know I would be the only reporter to show up, and guess who else showed up? Before long, a staff member of the Suns escorted me and Brooks into a conference room and closed the door.
There I was, eye-to-eye with Brooks Robinson. I had never been so nervous in my life. Within moments though, I found myself telling Brooks how much of an O’s fan I was and, as surprising as it seemed to me, he enjoyed listening to me drone on.
Within minutes we were having the greatest conversation about the Orioles and, for a second, I almost forgot I was sitting next to the greatest third baseman to ever play.
Nearly a half four went by in what seemed like a blink. Then, I had a moment of panic. “Brooks, we have been talking so long, I forgot why I am here. To interview you. I’ve taken up so much of your time though already.”
I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like, “No worries. I’ve really enjoyed meeting you. Now let’s do that interview.”
Over the years, probably hundreds of Baltimore reporters could tell a similar story. Somewhere in a box in this house, I know I have a cassette tape of an amazing interview with Brooks. I have another tape from his induction in Cooperstown not long after that. That was a special weekend in a special place.
No way Brooks would ever remember that day in Hagerstown, and I wouldn’t expect him to; he’s met so many fans over so many years. But I’ll never forget it.
What is it like when your boyhood heroes live up to every amazing thing you’ve ever thought and built up in your mind about them? It’s great, that’s what it is.