Brooks Robinson, Orioles defensive stalwart and Hall of Famer, dies at 86

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Former Baltimore Orioles and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson throws out the first pitch before the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Houston Astros  at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 24, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

No list of MLB’s best defensive players ever is complete without Brooks Robinson. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) (G Fiume via Getty Images)

Brooks Robinson, the Baltimore Orioles legend who made MLB history with 16 straight Gold Gloves at third base, has died, the team announced Tuesday. He was 86 years old.

The Orioles’ statement:

“We are deeply saddened to share the news of the passing of Brooks Robinson. An integral part of our Orioles Family since 1955, he will continue to leave a lasting impact on our club, our community, and the sport of baseball.”

Robinson leaves a legacy of defensive stardom that has gone nearly unmatched throughout baseball history. Before Nolan Arenado, Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen and Mike Schmidt, there was Robinson, earning the nickname “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” across 23 seasons at the hot corner.

An Arkansas native, Robinson signed with the Orioles for $4,000 in 1955 and was soon in uniform for the big league club. After five seasons of sporadic playing time and struggles at the plate, Robinson broke through in 1960 to the tune of an All-Star nod, a third-place finish in MVP voting and his first Gold Glove.

No other American League third baseman would win a Gold Glove until 1976.

Robinson become part of an Orioles core that won two World Series championships in 1966 and 1970, alongside fellow Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer, plus MVP first baseman Boog Powell. Robinson earned AL MVP honors in 1964 and World Series MVP honors in 1970. He earned the latter thanks to a postseason in which went 16-for-33 at the plate against the Cincinnati Reds with his usual defensive prowess.

You can get a feel for the kind of player he was from quotes by the Reds’ manager and two biggest stars:

“I’m beginning to see Brooks (Robinson) in my sleep. If I dropped a paper plate, he’d pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first.” – Sparky Anderson

“Brooks Robinson belongs in a higher league.” – Pete Rose

“I will become a left-handed hitter to keep the ball away from that guy.” – Johnny Bench

Robinson enjoyed the kind of prime you almost never see in modern baseball, with All-Star and Gold Glove nods ever season between 1960 and 1974. He finally retired in 1977, with the most Gold Gloves in MLB history.

Since Robinson’s retirement, only Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux has surpassed his 16 Gold Gloves with 18. Robinson’s streak of 16 straight Gold Gloves is only matched by Jim Kaat.

Robinson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot with 92% of the vote. In retirement, he became a businessman, an Orioles broadcaster and an active presence in the baseball community. He served as president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association from 1989 to 2022, a tenure of 33 years.

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