Brooks Robinson makes the hot corner cool

BY foxsports • March 29, 2012

FOX Sports presents "The Boys in the Hall," a series featuring
interviews with legendary members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Check your local listings on May 27 for showings of "The Boys In The
Hall" featuring Frank Robinson.

If ever a baseball glove dragged a player into the Hall of Fame, that glove belonged to Baltimore third baseman Brooks Robinson.

His
nickname was The Vacuum Cleaner and he should have changed his last
name to Hoover or Eureka. One of those manufacturers should have named
their top-of-the-line model ‘The Brooks Robinson.'

Of himself, Robinson once said, "Fifty years from now people will remember me as just three inches of type in the record books."

Well,
it is 41 years since the 1970 World Series and fans of the Cincinnati
Reds still consider Robinson Public Enemy No. 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The
first two games of 1970 World Series between the Orioles and Reds were
played in new Riverfront Stadium and was the first played on AstroTurf
and the last to have all day games.

Before Game One, a writer
asked Robinson how difficult it would be for him to play on AstroTurf
for the first time in his illustrious career.

"I'm a major-league third baseman," he said. "If they ask me to play on a parking lot, I'm supposed to stop the ball."

And then he proved it. Cincinnati's potent right-handed lineup couldn't get a ball past Robinson with a bazooka or a Howitzer.

Time after time after time, the Reds blasted balls at Robinson and he gobbled them like a roast beef sandwich.

The
Orioles won that World Series in five games and Robinson was the MVP,
hitting a record .429 for five games with a record 17 total bases and a
record nine hits, four in one game. His MVP award won him a new car.

Fans don't remember that. They remember the flashing glove and the laser-perfect arm.

Robinson
robbed catcher Johnny Bench three times and after the Series Bench
said, "If we had known he wanted a new car that badly we all would have
chipped in and bought him one."

Said Sparky Anderson, managing in
his first year for the embryonic Big Red Machine, "He could throw his
glove out there and it would start ten double plays."

Pete Rose watched baseballs disappear in Robinson's glove and said, "Brooks Robinson belongs in a higher league."

Some examples:

In
Game One, Robinson's seventh-inning home run won the game, but fans
were abuzz over the play he made on Lee May. He backhanded a ball over
the bag and turned in foul territory to throw the astonished May out at
first base.

In Game Three in Baltimore, Rose and Bobby Tolan
started the first inning with back-to-back singles. Tony Perez hit a
high chopper to third. Robinson leaped to snag a high hop, stepped on
third, threw to first, double play, rally over.

In the third
inning fleet afoot Tommy Helms dribbled a slow roller up the third base
line. Robinson swooped in, grabbed the ball barehanded and in one motion
threw out Helms.

In the sixth inning, Bench ripped one toward the left field corner, a sure double. Nope. Robinson leaped and snagged it.

When he came to bat in the bottom of the inning, the Memorial Stadium crowd gave him a standing ovation. He doubled.

That
was the first of 35 World Series I covered and I remember nothing of
Robinson's batwork, but his magic with the glove is indelibly etched.

"It's
a pretty sure thing that a player's bat is what speaks loudest at
contract time, but there are moments when the glove has the last word,"
he said.

And that was the last word when it came time to put
Robinson in the Hall of Fame. For 23 years, his career average was only
.269 and he hit over .300 only twice. His top home run year was 28 and
he drove in more than 100 runs only twice.

But his glove not only put him in the Hall of Fame, it kept a few players out.

"I could field for as long as I can remember, but hitting has been a struggle all my life," he said.

Robinson
says he watches games and baseball highlights and said, "I see a third
baseman make a great play and the announcer says, ‘That's a Brooks
Robinson play,' and I ask myself, ‘Did I ever make a play like that?'"

Tons of ‘em, Brooks, just tons of ‘em.

Robinson
was once asked if there were any of his records that wouldn't bother
him if they were broken and he said with an impish grin, "I wouldn't
mind seeing somebody erase my record of hitting into four triple plays,"
he said.

Nobody remembers that, Brooks. For you, it was always leather and laces.


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