The Baltimore Orioles could use a touch of Brooks Robinson, these days. If you’ve never seen him play, Brooks made his debut back in 1955 when Lucille Ball was the most popular player in the world. He played A-Rods position as if he were Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four. If it was hit to the left side of the field, Brooks turned into the original horizontal man, seemingly suspended in mid-air as he snatched baseball after baseball, firing to1st for one or 2nd for the start of a double play. Spiderman himself would be hard pressed to match the mastery of the hot corner Brooks Robinson displayed. It was kind of like watching Derek Jeter play shortstop in his prime.
Robinson was 18 years old when he slid into a pair of spikes for the Baltimore Orioles. He would wait 11 years for the champagne bath of a World Championship, a four game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before retiring in 1977, he would see the post season three more times, losing against all odds to the Miracle Mets in 1969 but then tasting the championship in 1970 by steam-rolling the Big Red Machine. In 71, however, Brooks and the boys from Baltimore would pit there 101-win season against the Pittsburgh Pirates only to lose in 7.
There was never another uniform for Brooks Robinson. He would make it all the way to 1977 playing all 22 years for the Baltimore Orioles. In those 22 years, Brooks twice crossed the threshold of a .300 or better batting average, hitting .303 in ’62 and .317 in ’64. Robinson never achieved 200 hits in a single season and only surpassed 190 on three separate occasions. He hit 268 homeruns and collected a grand total of 2,848 hits, 42nd on the list of most hits by a batter in the history of the game.
He is about to become number 43.
Derek Jeter, the slick fielding shortstop for the New York Yankee’s is about to shake hands with Baltimore’s most memorable 3rd baseman. Jeter made his debut some forty years after Brooks Robinson. Over the course of fifteen seasons, Jeter has had 6 seasons of 200 or more hits, going deep 232 times. He has batted .300 or better on 11 separate occasions, hitting .349 in ’99 and .334 just a year ago. Like Brooks before him, Jeter has gone horizontal in the field. Forget Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four. At times Jeter and his soft hands spin an unseen web, snagging line drives seemingly out of mid-air as if he were Spiderman or maybe Spiderman is really Derek Jeter and he just takes to the rooftops to keep himself in shape for the game.
July could be a huge month for Derek as there are a couple of other players hanging out in the Yankee clubhouse. Jesse Burkett who spent 15 years in Major League Baseball debuting for the New York Giants back in 1890 before going to the Cleveland Spiders, where he spent 8 years; St. Louis, where he played for both the Cardinals and the Browns, before wrapping up his career in Boston playing for the Pilgrims, is 41st on the all time list with 2850. Jeter is only 10 behind him, 17 hits shy of becoming the 40th greatest hitter in the game, a position currently held by Harold Baines. The Bambino is at number 39. The Sultan of Swat was born in Charm City where Brooks made his name with those Baltimore Orioles not to be confused with these Baltimore Orioles, mired in last place in the AL East. On July 10th, Brooks will appear at the All-Star Extravaganza in a place called Industry, California. Brooks lectures now, making appearances around the country. An anonymous source at Yankee Stadium tells me Derek will probably go into gardening when this is all said and done. “He keeps trimming roses. He likes to shorten the stem.”