Major League Baseball is in the throes of opening week and Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson was at a hockey game Thursday night. As a guest of CSN Mid-Atlantic and the Laughlin family, Robinson came to Verizon Center to see the latest iteration of the Capitals Penguins rivalry.
Nicknamed “The Human Vacuum Cleaner,” Robinson won 16 Gold Gloves and two world championships with the Baltimore Orioles. Robinson is considered one of the greatest third basemen in major league history. Former Capitals player Brooks Laich is named after the beloved Orioles infielder.
During the first intermission, I spoke with Robinson. Brooks explained his hockey fandom, what position he would play if he were a hockey player, and his thoughts on his historic Major League career.
RMNB: You know, we’re all Orioles fans at RMNB — well except for me.
Brooks Robinson: Well alright! [Laughs]
RMNB: So I hear your wife is Canadian?
Robinson: Well she was born in Detroit, but see was raised in Windsor. In fact, her dad owned the arena and the Windsor Spitfires for a long time.
RMNB: Oh, man.
Robinson: She kind of grew up on hockey.
RMNB: Did you get into hockey through her then?
Robinson: No, I watch it. I like to watch it and everything. She’s a big Detroit Red Wings fan, Chicago Blackhawks. She likes the old group, the Original Six, so no matter who it is she pulls for Boston or Chicago or somebody.
RMNB: So you’re a fan too?
Robinson: Well she likes to watch and I like to watch it. It’s the first time I’ve been here for a game. I was here for a baseball game I think, but that’s been a long time.
RMNB: Do you watch the Capitals?
No, no, but I watch the scores and pull for them. I’d like to see them win [the Stanley Cup]. Back when Pittsburgh beat them four in that killed me and all they had to do was win — win one game.
RMNB: How would you compare hockey and baseball? Obviously they are completely different sports in terms of the speed of the game.
Robinson: The thing that amazes me is there are a lot of similarities. The players know where the other players are all time. They make a pass knowing where the guy was, but they don’t look at him. In baseball, there’s a lot of instincts [too]: knowing who’s pitching, what they’re going to throw, and where you’re going to play certain guys. It’s something you grow up with. I never wanted to do anything in my whole life except play baseball. I’m sure these guys never wanted to do anything except be a hockey player.
RMNB: Speaking of that, you had great hands as a player. Do you think maybe you could have been a good hockey player?
Robinson: I’d have been a goalie, you know? I don’t think I’m fast enough!
RMNB: So not a skater?
Robinson: Nah! These guys are too tough for me! I don’t have the speed.
RMNB: Switching to baseball, how has the game evolved since you played?
Robinson: Not a whole lot. The money is the big change in the game. I played on the reserves and you’re with the team forever and they say ‘Hey, we don’t want you’ and they’re going to trade you. But now it’s a lot different. I think the players that have been playing now, their ambition has been to be a baseball player, a big league baseball player. That’s what they’ve always wanted to do. That was the same with me.
Ever since I was this high [Robinson gestures to knees] I wanted to be a baseball player. My dad was a pretty good semi-pro player in Little Rock and I was the bat boy on his teams. I can remember writing a booklet when I was in the eight grade on my vocation, on what I wanted to do: I wanted to be a major league baseball player. I think my love for the game was probably one of my biggest assets. I just loved to play. Not that had all the ability, but I had great hand eye coordination. You know, I started out as a second baseman and then they moved me over to third and that’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
RMNB: I won’t keep you any longer, but it’s been a great honor to meet you.
Robinson: Thank you, my man! Nice to see you.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.
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