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DonRocks

Brooks Robinson (1937-), Baltimore Orioles 3rd Baseman (1955-1977) and The Greatest Defensive Baseball Player of All Time

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This week, the great Washington Nationals blog, talknats.com, is publishing, in serial format, a seven-part, persuasive, long-form essay I've written, making the case for the great Brooks Robinson being the greatest defensive baseball player of all-time, at any position. The first entry is linked to below - please retweet, and then follow along, and put forth any comments or criticism that you may come up with. The entire seven-part serial will be published here, but only after talknats.com gets their chance to finish it. Note: I did not make one penny from writing this piece, and wrote it completely as a labor of love - Robinson's fans and admirers are getting older, and are mostly deceased at this point, and I am (at age 56) about the youngest person remaining on this Earth to really remember Robinson's career, even if I only actually remember the tail-end of it - I think it's absolutely imperative that I do this now, while Brooks is still with us, because I'll never get it done otherwise.

As to "why talknats.com?" A very simple answer: My mom was Andy Lang's first-grade teacher, and even though we haven't seen each other for decades, I've known Andy for over 50 years - he's co-owner of talknats.com. I can think of no better reason than to acknowledge and assist a life-long friend, and I'm happy for talknats.com to have first publication credit for this. 

When they're finished, I'll publish the entire long-form entry here as well, but I want them to have publication credentials because, well, why not?

Note: The entire seven-part serial takes approximately three hours to read, and it isn't made for skimming or glossing over - I ask you to either read and study it, in its entirety, in book form, like you're studying a novel; or to save it for when you have time to do it justice.

 Please click here, and follow the links to Entry #1.

Cheers,
Rocks

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Hi Don,

Looking forward to viewing the rest of the Brooksie essay (5-7) that you’ve written.  They are taking a bit of time to post and I’m impatient ; )

I think the thing that most people forget about is that Brooks was 33 years old during the ‘70 WS. He had already been in the league for 15 years making the same type, and even better plays in the past.  Also, I think you mentioned it, but he positions himself far better than most, if not all, of these modern 3rd sackers.  

Just an observation, but one of the last games I saw in Tampa, Rays vs O’s there were at least three balls hit between 3rd and Short on the O’s infield that went through.  Also, one through the 5 hole on Longoria.  How often did you ever see one go through 3rd and Short w/Aparicio, Balenger, Hanson?   

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1 hour ago, Mark70Z said:

Hi Don,

Looking forward to viewing the rest of the Brooksie essay (5-7) that you’ve written.  They are taking a bit of time to post and I’m impatient ; )

I think the thing that most people forget about is that Brooks was 33 years old during the ‘70 WS. He had already been in the league for 15 years making the same type, and even better plays in the past.  Also, I think you mentioned it, but he positions himself far better than most, if not all, of these modern 3rd sackers.  

Just an observation, but one of the last games I saw in Tampa, Rays vs O’s there were at least three balls hit between 3rd and Short on the O’s infield that went through.  Also, one through the 5 hole on Longoria.  How often did you ever see one go through 3rd and Short w/Aparicio, Balenger, Hanson?   

Hey Mark, it's coming (and I'm going to post the entire thing here when it's finished) - there was something of a misunderstanding among the readers there (see the comments in entry #4 along with my reply, but to all others: Keep in mind this serial is intended to be read like a book, and people should start at entry #1). I think the Admins don't want to veer too blatantly off-topic from the Nats, as Spring Training began last Wednesday - they're a hyper-focused website, and unbeknownst to me, this serial is actually *off-topic* for them!

You know, the more I watch that Tolan bunt single in Game 3, I'm becoming convinced that it *was* rolling foul, but hit a pebble in the dirt that made it veer back onto the grass (look closely at the slow-motion replay - the ball is heading foul, then suddenly it hops up off the ground (it *must* have hit a pebble), and then cuts back to the right).

Want to see something cool? Google Brooks Robinson defense. Man, you just never know what will happen until you try something.

Screenshot 2018-02-24 at 12.41.33.png

If anyone wants to read the serial on Talknats.com, start with the first entry here (if you want to keep reading afterwards, you can change the "1-7" in the URL to "2-7" then "3-7" etc.)

It will actually be better to read here, because you can click on each picture and blow it up to full-screen.

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You’re a lot like me. I enjoy viewing the plays and viewing all that’s involved. In this instance I totally agree with you; the ball was definitely headed foul and hit rock/pebble or something to cause it to travel fair.  There’s definitely a difference between natural turf and artificial and we see an example in this play.  

Like the Brooksie quote about playing on AstroTurf prior to the series “I'm a Major League third baseman. If you want to go play in a parking lot, I'm supposed to stop the ball." (Reply given before game one of the 1970 World Series in regards to if he thought he would have a problem playing on Astroturf for the first time)

BB516745-5BC4-4885-976B-F90564BFE78B.jpeg

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Hi Don,

Absolutely loved your seven parter on Brooks Robinson.  I personally feel he’s the greatest 3rd sacker of all time, bar none.  Also, I 100% agree that Brooksie is the greatest defensive player at any position to ever play the game.  

I don’t think you used this quote, “How  many interviews,  how many questions, - how  many times you approached him and got only courtesy and decency in return.  A true gentleman who never took himself seriously. I always had the idea he didn’t know he was Brooks Robinson”.  Joe Falls

Possibly even better quote, “There’s not a man that knows him who wouldn’t swear for his integrity and honesty and give testimony to his consideration for others. He’s an extraordinary human being, which is important, and the worlds greatest third baseman, which is incidental.” John Steadman

How about another one on Brooks being the nicest ball player of all time.  

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7 minutes ago, Mark70Z said:

Hi Don,

Absolutely loved your seven parter on Brooks Robinson.  I personally feel he’s the greatest 3rd sacker of all time, bar none.  Also, I 100% agree that Brooksie is the greatest defensive player at any position to ever play the game.  

I don’t think you used this quote, “How  many interviews,  how many questions, - how  many times you approached him and got only courtesy and decency in return.  A true gentleman who never took himself seriously. I always had the idea he didn’t know he was Brooks Robinson”.  Joe Falls

Possibly even better quote, “There’s not a man that knows him who wouldn’t swear for his integrity and honesty and give testimony to his consideration for others. He’s an extraordinary human being, which is important, and the worlds greatest third baseman, which is incidental.” John Steadman

How about another one on Brooks being the nicest ball player of all time.  

Oof, this one took a lot out of me, Mark - I will put your quotes in, though. I put in Boswell's article at the last minute (it's actually better to read here than on TalkNats, because you can expand the photos).

I'll just be happy if he eventually knows the piece exists. Thank you for reading it - you're probably one of about five people who has. :)

If anyone wanted to rank the top 3 defensive players: Smith, Mays, Robinson, in any order, they'd get no argument from me - Boswell said that Mays could pretty much perform miracles; I only saw him at the end of his career (although I did see him in person!)

One thing with Robinson I didn't mention is that when he dove, he seemed to float. People like Machado, Arenado, etc., seem to "fly," but Robinson sort of gently floated (that Game 5, 9th Inning foul ball against Bench is a great example), like a Jigglypuff (I know you probably don't know what a Jigglypuff is, but they sort of look like Neil Armstrong bouncing around on the Moon).

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8 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Oof, this one took a lot out of me, Mark - I will put your quotes in, though. I put in Boswell's article at the last minute (it's actually better to read here than on TalkNats, because you can expand the photos).

I'll just be happy if he eventually knows the piece exists. Thank you for reading it - you're probably one of about five people who has. :)

If anyone wanted to rank the top 3 defensive players: Smith, Mays, Robinson, in any order, they'd get no argument from me - Boswell said that Mays could pretty much perform miracles; I only saw him at the end of his career (although I did see him in person!)

I’d have to part ways at least on Smith.  I personally believe Belanger was a better shortstop and possibly Aparicio as well (possibly a tad bit of bias).  Don’t like Mays even though he was likely one of the best.  

One last quote for the day, “He’s just the greatest third baseman in the history of baseball. That’s counting everybody.” Earl Weaver

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15 minutes ago, Mark70Z said:

I’d have to part ways at least on Smith.  I personally believe Belanger was a better shortstop and possibly Aparicio as well (possibly a tad bit of bias).  Don’t like Mays even though he was likely one of the best.  

One last quote for the day, “He’s just the greatest third baseman in the history of baseball. That’s counting everybody.” Earl Weaver

I've really only seen highlights of Smith, but they *are* impressive highlights - also, advanced metrics have him as arguably the best ever. What did you think of my hypothesis that Robinson made Belanger and Aparicio better than they would have been? I think it's a novel idea, and it's awfully coincidental that he had two such highly touted shortstops.

Darn it, I wish people would realize just how alien-like Robinson was - people have forgotten, and judge him by his appearance. I think he had the quickest reflexes of anyone I've ever seen, in any sport (maybe professional table tennis players are just as quick).

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38 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

I've really only seen highlights of Smith, but they *are* impressive highlights - also, advanced metrics have him as arguably the best ever. What did you think of my hypothesis that Robinson made Belanger and Aparicio better than they would have been? I think it's a novel idea, and it's awfully coincidental that he had two such highly touted shortstops.

Darn it, I wish people would realize just how alien-like Robinson was - people have forgotten, and judge him by his appearance. I think he had the quickest reflexes of anyone I've ever seen, in any sport (maybe professional table tennis players are just as quick).

Well, I think Robinson’s defense gave them less chances/opportunities and they didn’t need to have a lot of range even though they did.  Belanger was a great position player; kinda like Brooks in that he knew where to position himself and they consistently communicated with each other.  

I don’t think people have forgotten, but never really knew how great he was as an all around player.  The ones who’ve seen him play knew he was the best ever and his teammates agree.  He also passes not only the eye test, but the stat test.  I truly hate reading modern articles on the greatest third baseman and place players up there and they weren’t even that good at 3rd.  

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To those who say, "Sure, great defense, but barely above-average offense," 

Brooks Robinson had more hits than anyone in the entire American League during the 1960s.

Really. Look it up if you don't believe me. Robinson had more hits during the 1960s than Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, and Harmon Killebrew - and Robinson won a Gold Glove every single year during the 1960s, as well as being the AL MVP (1964) and All-Star MVP (1966). Was Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, or Ted Williams a Top 5 defensive player for an entire decade? If you value defense as much as offense, then Brooks Robinson was one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the sport - assuming you believe defense is equal to offense (I highlighted that because most people don't make that assumption), I'll go so far as to say that Robinson was one of the Top 10 greatest baseball players in the history of the sport - how could he not be? His defense was better than Hank Aaron's offense, and his offense was better than Hank Aaron's defense. How could anyone not rate him higher than Sandy Koufax, who only had four dominant seasons, and contributed nothing on offense?

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Google "Brooks Robinson greatest"

Screenshot 2018-06-21 at 00.28.04.png

I didn't do this because I wanted more exposure; I did this because my mom taught the co-owner first grade, and I wanted to do something nice for him.

Technically, it "hurt" me by not publishing it here exclusively, but I don't care - I wanted to do a favor for an old friend whom my mom cared about. The latest-and-greatest versions will always be here (I've made several changes, and you can blow the pictures up to full-size here).

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"Orioles Bringing Back Brooks Robinson as Special Advisor and Community Liaison" by Dan Connolly on baltimorebaseball.com

Yes, I have no doubt it's a made-up, "courtesy" position but so what. It's so critically important for sports, or anything else, to bridge the old and the new.  It isn't right that the Angelo regime has kept Robinson away from the Orioles for so long - maybe they realize that calling on a beloved legend who is close to the end of his life may not be such a bad idea after all. He's probably being paid less-than $5,000 per appearance, and it probably takes him 3 hours to get ready and get to the ballpark, then another 2 hours after the game is over to get home - this should have been done twenty years ago.

When Robinson was asked why he went back:

---

“Because they asked me more than anything else,” Robinson said. “I had plenty to do. I’m part owner of the York Revolution team in the Atlantic League. I’m president of the Major League Baseball Alumni Association. I get involved with some of their prospects. But I got a call from John Angelos and he said, ‘Let’s talk.’ So, I went and talked to him, and worked things out and I’ll see how it goes. It’s not set in steel how many years I’m gonna be here. But I’ll see what I can do.”

---

John Angelos, you're playing with a precious, Ming vase - don't break it.

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On 4/29/2016 at 4:34 PM, Kibbee Nayee said:

Lefty throwers can't play catcher, 3rd base, SS or 2nd base, because of the awkward, cross-body throws required in many game situations, like those smashes down the 3rd base line that Brooks Robinson made look routine, but probably couldn't if his glove was on the other hand.

Brooks Robinson is left-handed. :)

(I suspect you knew this, but only he and Rafael Nadal defy logic in this regard. Want to hear something amazing? Both Robinson and Nadal were essentially 6'1", 185 lbs.)

Brooks1.jpgBrooks2.jpg

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16 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Brooks Robinson is left-handed. :)

(I suspect you knew this, but only he and Rafael Nadal defy logic in this regard. Want to hear something amazing? Both Robinson and Nadal were essentially 6'1", 185 lbs.)

Technically, you're correct. Brooks wrote left-handed. He signed autographs left-handed. On the diamond, he was decidedly right-handed.

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