It was quite a night. Two Orioles legends talking with fans and telling stories on one stage at one time.
In case anyone forgot, Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer are still pretty loved around Baltimore. Several hundred fans hung on their every story and word last night at Horseshoe Casino at a fundraiser for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, which owns and operates both Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards and the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum.
The night ended with a special ceremony as Robinson welcomed Palmer and late Orioles manager Earl Weaver into the Sports Legends Hall of Legends. Robinson was inducted in 2009 and the two O’s greats joined him last night.
Weaver’s wife, Marianna, attended the event and was understandably a bit emotional in seeing how special Weaver remains to his former players and the fans.
Before the event began, Palmer and Robinson were interviewed during a press conference. The first question was about O’s executive vice president Dan Duquette and the rumors involving Toronto’s pursuit of him this winter.
“I talked to Dan on Saturday and he said, ‘It’s a great opportunity,’ ” Palmer said. “I actually thought if the Orioles were going to lose him, they do have some minor league pitchers that probably could have helped this organization.
“I thought Peter (Angelos) handled it well. He’s under contract and the Orioles gave him a chance. He’s done a terrific job along with Buck Showalter and the whole organization. I can understand why Toronto wants him.
“I would have been, I think, a little disappointed for him to leave. Apparently it didn’t work out for the moment and we’ll see how it plays out. I think he’s beyond reproach as trying to do what is best for the Orioles.
“You have to remember, Dan was with George Bamberger, Walter Youse, Harry Dalton. He kind of knows what the original Oriole way was.”
Robinson had a similar sentiment.
“For Dan, it would be a step up and more money,” Robinson said. “But he’s got a contract to a team. Dan has done a great job here, I’ve met him three or four times. But it was more prestige, a once-in-a-lifetime job and he wanted to take it, but it didn’t work out I guess. ... I don’t think this will affect the Orioles one bit. They know what they have to do.”
Did any of this hurt the team?
“I don’t really think so,” Palmer said. “They didn’t want to spend the money for Andrew Miller. The $57 or $58 million for Nelson Cruz, that wasn’t in their budget. They might have been worried about Nick (Markakis’) neck injury.
“I think Dan plays his cards pretty well. He did it last year. Travis Snider, I saw him when he came up. If you want to get into Sabermetric numbers, his Wins Above Replacement, well never as good as Brooks. His was eight one year. Snider I think was 2.1 and Nick was 2.7.
“The Orioles have a way of figuring things out. Did anyone here honestly think they were going to win 96 games last year? They just have a way of being very competitive.”
Robinson feels the Orioles are in for another good season.
“I don’t get to a lot of games, but do follow it on TV. Being the Eastern Division champions, that is something to look forward to and means people know who you are now,” he said.
“I’ve never seen excitement at the ballpark like here the last couple of years. It’s just been incredible, the young people out there.”
Palmer won three Cy Young Awards, 268 games and three World Series with the Orioles on his way to his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1990. Robinson won 16 Gold Gloves, was named American League MVP in 1964 and World Series MVP in 1970 as the Orioles beat the Reds on his way to Cooperstown. He was inducted in 1983.
Both players shared their appreciation for Orioles fans.
“I think the older you get, the more you appreciate it,” Robinson said. “I’ll be standing in line at a grocery store and wearing a hat and someone will say they recognize my voice even. I love people to say hello and it’s been great.”
“I helped learn to handle people because of Brooks,” Palmer said. “I’ve had a chance to watch him over the years. Just coming up on the plane last night from (Orioles Dream Week) in Sarasota, there were fans. They are looking forward to the season. They asked about Dan and Travis Snider.
“If you actually say hello to somebody, it makes their day. It is so powerful and such a simple thing. Brooks kind of led the way for young players in how to treat fans and handle people. The same amount of time it takes to be rude to somebody, you can be nice and it really makes a difference.”
The Hall of Famers fondly remember Weaver, their Hall of Fame manager, and shared the stage with Marianna Weaver when Earl was inducted into the Hall of Legends.
“He was terrific,” Robinson said. “I don’t think anyone ran the game like Earl did. He got everyone involved and I felt that was one of the best qualities he had. No one sat very long.
“Earl could use reverse psychology. When we were winning, that is when he was hollering at us. A little, not much. When we were losing, he’d say, ‘Those guys can’t beat you. You’re a lot better than they are.’
“But I loved Earl. We did some hooping and hollering, especially Palmer. It was like the odd couple. But I know Jim loved him. They’d be playing golf the next day. We had a lot of fun. Just a lot of happy memories.”
Said Palmer: “The reason I got into the Hall of Fame is guys like Brooks. But Earl trusted me enough to give me the ball every fourth day.
“One of my favorite Earl stories involved Mike Flanagan. He said to me once, ‘I don’t think Earl has faith in me.’ We were in Boston and I see Earl and told him he needed to call Flanagan in and talk to him about that. Flanny was 2-9 and he said he would keep putting his name in the lineup.
“The next day Earl told a Boston Globe reporter, ‘I don’t care what Flanagan’s record is. He’s going to be a winning pitcher in the big leagues.’ Now Mike grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, and read the Globe. He reads that and he went 13-1 the rest of the year.”
Last night was filled with great stories like that. Over the next week or so, I’ll post a few more of the stories from Brooks and Jim. Also, we should soon have video from the program last night in our MASNsports.com video lounge.
Last night in downtown Baltimore, those two Hall of Famers reminded us how much they loved being Orioles and and we saw yet again why the fans have loved them so much years and years after their playing days ended.