An Evening with Brooks
It was typical Brooks. He might be the greatest third baseman who ever lived – and certainly one of Baltimore’s most beloved figures – but he had to be all but dragged to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Monday night for “An Evening with Brooks” – a night of testimonials for the benefit of the Legends Sports Museum and the American Cancer Society.
“They had to twist my arm for about a month,’’ he said.
Everybody knows the story by now. It took some special arm-twisting by Sandy Unitas to get Brooks to show up. It didn’t take much persuasion at all for anybody else, and just about everyone who is anyone in Baltimore sports was on hand to honor “Mr. Oriole.”
Sportscaster Scott Garceau and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer served as Masters of Ceremonies for an event that was broken up into nine “innings” and featured stars from the entire spectrum of Baltimore sports history as well as some of the Cincinnati Reds players who competed against Brooks during the 1970 World Series which cemented his reputation as the “Human Vacuum Cleaner.”
Maybe you’ve noticed that I haven’t bothered to address Brooks by his full name, but that is no accident. Brooks will suffice in a sports town where he needs no further introduction. If you’re a Baltimore sports fan, you’re more likely to say “Madonna who?” than ask “which Brooks.”
“He was a very special player both on and off the field,’’ said Palmer. “As Davey (Johnson) used to say, ‘He’s just so unassuming.’ That’s Brooksie. That’s what made him so appealing.”
How unassuming? The guy just doesn’t feel comfortable being told what a great player he was and what a great guy he still is, but – in the end – he just couldn’t say no to the opportunity to raise money for the museum and the American Cancer Society, especially after his recent brush with prostate cancer.
“I’ve had enough adulation,’’ Brooks said. “I though that was over. My heart can’t take much more of this. But a lot of people have come a long way to be here…It’s overwhelming, to tell the truth.”
The guest list was too long to list here, but you know who we’re talking about. Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver held court on the second level of the Meyerhoff, describing how well Brooks treated him when Weaver was an up-and-coming minor league manager and how Brooks helped him get to Cooperstown.
I mean, how great a guy do you have to be to make one of the most irascible managers in baseball history go all soft and cuddly?
“It’s goes all the way back to Paul Richards when I would go down as a minor league manager,’’ Weaver said. “You watched him work, and he went from being a good ballplayer to a great ballplayer to probably, you’d have to say, the best defensive third baseman that ever played the game.
“I remember him when I was a minor league manager and he was always so polite. He always was like that. I’ve never seen him say no to anyone. There probably is not a person in this room who hasn’t shook his hand or got an autograph from him. I don’t think you’ll ever see anybody else like Brooks.”
If you don’t believe Earl, consider that even former Cincinnati Red Bernie Carbo jumped at the chance to travel to Baltimore to be part of an evening for the guy who robbed him and his teammates of a possible world title in 1970 with his highlight reel performance at third base.
“Brooks Robinson treats you like you’re the Hall of Famer,’’ Carbo said. “Very kind. Very humble. The thing I remember most is being a 23-year-old kid sitting on the bench with my teammates and watching him make those plays and wishing he was on our team.”
Baltimore Sun file photos