Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Brooks Robinson Statue Dedication

I love Brooks Robinson.  I grew us a Cal Ripken fan, but never really took the time as a kid to look into the past Orioles and understood the history of the team.  I didn't really get into those teams until I got back into the hobby around 2005 or so.  I'm glad I did, though.  Brooks Robinson is, in my opinion, just as much the face of the Baltimore Orioles as Cal is.  They go hand in hand, really.  Baseball's Iron Man and the greatest defensive 3rd baseman of all time.  They both are Hall of Famers and beloved in the city of Baltimore.  For some reason, over the past several years, Brooks and the Orioles have seemed far apart.  Brooks wasn't seen around the ballpark.  He used to do color commentary on broadcasts many years ago, but hadn't been invited to do any for MASN recently.  A statue of Babe Ruth stood outside the gates of Camden Yards, but no statue to Brooks was anywhere to be seen.

Last year, a private investor commissioned a statue dedicated to Brooks.  The statue was unveiled outside and across the street from the ballpark, near Pickles, the famous pub across from Camden Yards.  The statue was erected in honor of a man who, seemingly, hadn't really been honored enough by the team he spent 23 seasons with (a record).  Yeah, he was in the Orioles Hall of Fame and has his number 5 retired, but it seemed to be missing something.  Until September 29, 2012, that is.  On that night, as a part of the Orioles Legends series, honoring the 6 greatest Orioles of all time, a statue inside the ballpark was unveiled in honor of Mr. Oriole, Brooks Robinson.
His statue, which was supposed to be unveiled in April, was the last of the 6 statues to be revealed (Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken are the others who were honored with larger than life sculptures).  Broos' dedication was delayed due to recurring health concerns and it was thought that he might not be able to attend his own ceremony.
The ceremony was befitting the man who spent decades with the Orioles, signed as a 'bonus baby' out of high school in 1955, making his major league debut later that season as an 18-year old.
His former manager, Earl Weaver, and the other Oriole Hall of Famers, looked on as dignitaries (one being ESPN commentator and huge Oriole fan, Roy Firestone) gave speeches honoring Brooks.  Earl Weaver was even shown on the Jumbotron crying.
Cal, Jim, Earl, Eddie and Frank all removed the sheet from the statue, unveiling it for all who attended the ceremony to see.  We were standing along the fence in the flag court watching the proceedings.
Brooks gave a great speech, thanking all in attendance for their years of support.  He also thanked the sculptor for his work and the Angelos family for their contribution to the team and coming through with a great series honoring the past Oriole greats.
Brooks culminated his speech by professing that he no longer wanted to call us fans 'fans' but instead would rather refer to us as his friends.  This brought tears to my eyes as I knew his sincerity and thought to myself how thankful I was to have actually met and spoken to Brooks in person.  He is a true class act and all sports figures can take a lesson from him in humility and class.
Thirty minutes before the game started, an on field ceremony for Brooks was held.  The other Oriole legends, along with Brooks were escorted onto the field in 2012 Camaros.  I got a picture of each one as they came in via the Jumbotron, except for Frank Robinson.  I was too slow in getting my camera out.
Eddie looks like he has added a few pounds but could still knock a ball out of the park.  Cal also looked good and could probably knock a few out himself.
Brooks, on the other hand does look like he has aged greatly since I met him at the 'Dinner With Brooks' event back in October 2010.  He has battled abdominal issues for the past several months, along with a cancer scare and a fall off of a stage earlier in the year.  His health has been a source of stress for Orioles fans recently, and at the age of 75, it shows that he is getting up in years.
Brooks was presented with a 2-foot tall bronze replica of the sculpture that had been revealed earlier that evening.
Brooks gave a second speech, mirroring the one he had given earlier.  He again referred to the fans as his friends and stated that he hoped this was his last celebration of his career.  I think he has had 4 or 5 different career celebrations, so I don't blame him for hoping this one wraps them up.  Especially is his health is not so great.
Brooks took the time to acknowledge the 2012 Orioles, drawing a huge pop from the crowd when he said "How about them Orioles?"  It was really cool to see him acknowledge this year's club and the playoff feel that has been spreading around Baltimore.
Finally, Brooks took a second to assure the crowd that he wasn't "...going anywhere for a long time!"  I took that to mean that he has gotten a clean bill of health and has put the health concerns from earlier this year behind him.

I was so blessed to be able to experience the Brooks statue dedication with some close friends, my wife and my son.  I told Chris that he would be able to take his grandkids to see the statue and tell them one day that he and his daddy were there to see it unveiled.  It definitely was a cool night and I'm glad I was there for Brooks.


Ryan H said...

I love the fact that during his speech he said that considers us all friends, not just fans!

Matthew Glidden said...

Nice recap! Must've been a great night to catch in person and congrats to the Orioles this year.

Commishbob said...

Wonderful write-up, William. And great pictures. I would have loved to have been there. Like Earl, I'd have had problems holding back my emotions.

Brooks Robinson means the world to me. My son is named Brooks Robinson Andrews. I hope Brookie is right and we have him around for a while. He's a wonderful guy.

I'm waiting for my replica statue to arrive from an eBay seller and I'll do a Brooks post. I'll include a link to this one of yours if you don't mind.