BALTIMORE—Cal Ripken Jr. talked about how his parents encouraged him to be like Brooks. Eddie Murray joked about eating crabs with him.
Current Orioles, including Kyle Bradish, Adam Frazier, Kyle Gibson, Aarn Hicks, Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn, Grayson Rodriguez and Tyler Wells, were there.
So were teammates Al Bumbry, Rick Dempsey and Jim Palmer.
But the event honoring Brooks Robinson, who died at 86 on September 26th, at Oriole Park on Monday morning was for the fans, many of whom were wearing orange Robinson jerseys and T-shirts as they sat in lower box seats at third base.
They heard from Robinson’s successor at third base, Doug DeCinces, who at the great man’s retirement in 1977, took third base from the Memorial Stadium field and presented it to him.
His son, Brooks David, and grandchildren Grant and Brooks Farley talked about his compassion and humanity.
Showing visible emotion, Ripken, who made his major league debut in 1981, talked about how he wished he could have been a teammate.
“We were so lucky to have him to look up to and model myself after,” Ripken said. “When I made my debut with the Orioles at third base, I felt like I was on sacred ground. This was where Brooks made all those diving catches, barehanded pickups and celebrated world championships.”
Ripken remembered that at the end of Robinson’s career, he homered against a young pitcher and said to him: “Don’t feel bad, I hit one off your old man, too.”
Fans cheered a tape of Robinson’s 1983 Hall of Fame induction and his 1970 World Series highlights.
“Brooksie is an important part of our family,” Lisa Corbitt, of Catonsville, said. “My father was a baseball player. He played for United Iron & Metal. He played with Al Kaline. Brooksie reminds me of my dad. “
She brought along her daughter, Caroline, who was far too young to see Robinson play, and her husband, Joe.
Joe Corbitt talked with Robinson before an early morning cross-country flight. He didn’t want to disturb him but couldn’t pass up the chance. They talked for 15 or 20 minutes about the 1970 World Series.
That talk wasn’t the one that stood out to him.
“I was on a bus at fantasy camp in 1998, and one of the campers had polio as a child, and Brooks sat and looked at this photo album with the guy for about a 25-minute ride, and you would have thought he was looking at a photo album of his grandchild,” Corbitt said. “That’s the way Brooks was.”
Barbara Clair, of Glen Burnie, estimates she met Brooks at least 10 times.
“Every time you asked for an autograph, he wouldn’t just give the autograph,” she said. “He’d talk to you. He’d talk about your life. He’d talk about his life. He did a lot for my church, St. Leo’s. He was just a remarkable individual who’ll be missed,” Clair said, choking back tears.
A woman who’d only give her name as Debbie said she never met Robinson, but her son and grandson are both named after him.
Those Brookses aren’t hard to find, nor are fans who became Robinson fans—if not necessarily Oriole fans because of him.
“I rooted against the Orioles in ’69 against the Mets, except I never rooted against this man,” Orlando Correa said. Correa is from the Bronx, moved to Harford County 30 years ago. He did get to meet Robinson once when both worked on behalf of the United Way.
“He was a special individual regardless of what team he played for,” Correa said.
Longtime teammate Boog Powell remembered how Robinson welcomed him to the Orioles as a rookie and told his father he’d watch out for his son.
“My friend Brooks was the kindest, nicest man,” Powell said. “He never turned down anyone for an autograph or a photo. I learned a lot by watching Brooks, the way he treated people.
“I’m not very good at saying goodbyes, so, ‘See you on the field someday Brooks. I’ll be ready for that throw, and we’ll be smiling.’”