Today’s entry is the second in a three-part series where I tell stories from the times I’ve met three different Orioles legends.
On Friday, I told the story of when I was yelled at by Earl Weaver in Cooperstown back in 2003.
And in the next few days, I’ll tell the story of when I met Hall of Fame broadcaster Chuck Thompson.
But today’s entry is about the time I got into an “argument” with Mr. Oriole – Brooks Robinson…
Meeting Brooks Robinson
Just as happened with Weaver, I also had a brief encounter with Brooks Robinson when I was young.
I’m not sure of the exact year, but I want to say it was 1976 or 1977 – very definitely near the end of his Hall of Fame playing career.
It was an autograph/meet-and-greet session held at a Crown gasoline station, which Brooks had been promoting for several years by that point.
Now, I was very young – five or six years old – so I only remember a few things from meeting him.
The first thing I remember is that Brooks was a few minutes late arriving at the station (in Elkton, MD.) Those of us waiting for autographs were lined up waiting for him and we kept looking for a car with our hero to pull into the station.
All of a sudden, a car pulls in – and it seemed like Brooks was getting out of the car and apologizing for being late before the car had actually come to a stop. (Probably not, but that’s the memory I have…he was so anxious to apologize for being late that he couldn’t wait for the car to be parked.)
He signed an 8 x 10 photo (which, thankfully, I still have) and made a comment about how I looked ready to play ball, as I was wearing a replica Brooks Robinson jersey that had been a team giveaway.
Again, I remember very little from that day – but I do know that I came away impressed with how nice Brooks seemed to be to all those in attendance.
I did not meet Brooks in person again until 2009, when he was making a promotional appearance at an Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Randallstown.
Brooks was signing prints of the Norman Rockwell painting, “Gee, Thanks Brooks” which features Robinson signing an autograph for a young Orioles fan.
Robinson had actually purchased the original painting as well as the rights to all reproductions at an auction in 2006. And he had an arrangement with Ollie’s to make appearances and sign the prints as well as other memorabilia.
Even though I don’t consider myself much of an autograph collector (in spite of what you’re reading in this series of posts) I went ahead to the signing in Randallstown once I learned of it.
Once there, I found myself getting into a long line of people who were also there to meet the Orioles legend. Even more than 30 years after he had played his final game, Brooks Robinson was (and is) still incredibly popular in the Baltimore region.
In fact, I was in the line so long that I changed my plan. Initially I had intended to just get a signed copy of the Rockwell print – to hang alongside my print of Rockwell’s “The Umpires” in my office.
But I invested so much time in line that I decided to also purchase an Orioles’ batting helmet and have Brooks autograph that as well.
After waiting well over an hour, I finally made it to the front of the line – and Brooks asked for my name so he could personalize the autographed items.
He was pleasant and cordial, smiling and joking with others who were near him.
After he signed my items, he reached his hand out and shook mine and thanked me for coming.
I was a bit taken back by this – after all, he was the baseball legend and I was just a fan.
So as I shook his hand, I said, “No, Brooks – thank you. I really appreciate this.”
He interrupted me before I could finish and said, “No, no – it’s my pleasure. Thank you for coming out.”
I’m not sure why but I still felt something was off about the transaction here, so I said, “No…thank you for signing and for all the years…”
Again, he cut me off. Laughing this time. “No, no, I mean it – thank you. The fans are what it’s all about. I appreciate you taking the time to come out today.”
And with that, I decided to let it go.
I still felt like I should be the one thanking him, but after all…who am I to argue with Brooks Robinson?