Brooks Robinson is as important to one franchise as any player in baseball history.
Robinson spent his entire 23-year career with the Baltimore Orioles, which is tied for the longest career with one team in major league history.
That's just the beginning of his story, as Robinson is still widely considered the greatest defensive third baseman in the history of the game and overall one of the greatest to ever play the position, period.
Robinson's accomplishments on the field stack up with anyone. He was an 18-time all-star and a key component in bringing two World Series titles to Baltimore, including capturing the MVP of the 1970 Fall Classic. Flashing leather like no one had ever seen before, he won an amazing 16 Gold Gloves. The 1964 AL MVP is still the third baseman all others are measured by.
The all-time great ended his career just shy of 3,000 hits and smashed nearly 300 home runs in what some consider the second dead ball era and drove in nearly 1,500 runs. Quite simply, he could do it all.
It comes as no surprise that he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a member of the prestigious MLB All-Century Team.
Aside from all of his accomplishments on the field, Robinson remains one of the nicest, most beloved and well respected players to ever step onto the diamond.
Tony Reid chatted recently with Robinson about his illustrious career, his baseball cards and signing autographs for fans.
Your iconic rookie card appeared in the classic 1957 Topps set. It pictured a young, fresh-faced player with a big smile on his face. Do you remember seeing that card for the first time?
I do remember that. In 1957, I remember shooting my picture for the card. I looked forward to that. You always hear about that when you get to the minor leagues. It was terrific.
You were on hundreds of cards over the years. Do you have a single favorite card?
I know my ugliest one was my 1958 Topps card. There was a picture of me after I just finished running and it looked like I was throwing up. I remember that one more than any other card!
As an 18 time All Star, a 16-time Gold Glove winner as well as winning various MVP awards and numerous other accolades, do you have a trophy room or area where you have artifacts from your career displayed?
I used to, Tony. I have a foundation now. Heritage Auctions came in here and kind of cleaned everything out. We sold it. I got a $1.25 million. I started a foundation. I gave away $100,000 this year and I couldn’t be happier. My wife and I talked about it for a long time but we did sell everything I had.
That had to feel amazing to generate that kind of money for a great cause for your precious items.
It absolutely did. I have a real soft spot for service people like the Wounded Warriors, so I support them as well as a few other hospitals here in the area. I have enjoyed that part of it a lot. I had someone call and say that he had purchased a few of those things and he wanted to give them back to me. I told him, no, I wanted him to keep them. He donated them to the Babe Ruth Museum here in Baltimore.
As a young boy, did you collect baseball cards?
As a kid I don’t even remember them making baseball cards. I had a scrapbook that I had little photo cards in that were about an inch by two inches. I don’t know what ever happened to that book. I had fighters, great boxers like Max Schmeling and Joe Louis and for some reason I had about twenty dogs in there. I don’t even know where they came from. I didn’t really collect them, they just kind of showed up in a pack of gum or something.
You are one of the most revered athletes and considered around the community as one of the nicest players around. How did you become such a nice guy?
It wasn’t hard. I was raised that way. I was telling somebody on a different subject, I enjoy people and I enjoy being around them. I think I owed something to the public and I tried to do as much as I could. I was fortunate to play for one team my whole life. I started coming here [Baltimore] in 1955 and I am still here. It has worked out well.
I was with Jim “Catfish” Hunter one day. He said that when I first broke in he said he told his guys to keep an eye on me. I told him, “Jim, I told my guys to keep an eye on you, too.” We had fun with it. Our baseball careers worked out well for both of us.
Your autograph is one of the most beautiful in all of sports. How much pride do you take in signing for fans?
Thank you, I appreciate that. The nicest signatures I ever saw were Ted Williams and Eddie Murray. They are terrific. I feel like people deserve it. If they are at a card show paying money to get my autograph, they should be able to read it. I never had a problem with that. I see some of these autographs and, I tell ya, I always ask “Who in the hell is that?”
I think we all do that with some of these autographs.
I think you are right. Absolutely.
If we flipped over one single baseball card with one fact or stat on that back, what would you be proud to have on that card back?
Well, it might say that he was one of a few guys who won a regular-season MVP, a World Series MVP and an All-Star Game MVP. I was the American League MVP in 1964. I was the MVP of the 1970 World Series. I was the All-Star Game in 1966. That’s pretty good. Someone told me there are only two people who did that and it was Frank Robinson and myself. I think that is pretty special.
— Tony Reid has written about sports collectibles for such publications as Beckett and Sports Collectors Daily. He works full-time at a sports card shop in Central Pennsylvania and collects RCs in baseball, basketball and football. You can reach him on social media at @reidrattlecage.