All of the York Revolution players wore ’B. Robinson’ on their jerseys Tuesday in honor of the former Baltimore Oriole who made his
All of the York Revolution players wore 'B. Robinson' on their jerseys Tuesday in honor of the former Baltimore Oriole who made his professional debut with the York White Roses. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Kate Penn)

His hair grayed, the orange-and-black uniform replaced by a button-down shirt, Brooks Robinson turned to watch the highlights from his Hall of Fame career play out on the Sovereign Bank Stadium video board.

It all looked so familiar.

Robinson circled the bases wearing that one-of-a-kind batting helmet with the shaved down brim. Robinson stalked slow rollers down the line, slinging the ball to first for an out. And Robinson, showing some of his old high school basketball skills, jumped into the air before he greeted pitcher Dave McNally and catcher Andy Etchebarren at the end of the 1966 World Series.

Now 71, the former Orioles third baseman still commands the love of York.

Presented with the third baseman award for the Rawlings All-Time Gold Glove Team, Robinson was honored by the York Revolution with a pregame ceremony.

Robinson sat on the field at a table placed near third base, and players from the York Revolution and Newark Bears sat in chairs in front of the head table.

The usual white third base had been painted gold. All of the Revolution players' jerseys had been altered to read "B. Robinson" above their respective numbers. And Robinson received several standing ovations from the crowd.

At the end of the ceremony, players from both squads waited in line to meet Robinson and get his autograph.

"I'm not used to being treated like this," Robinson said.

And then Robinson flashed some of his typical humor -- he cracked a joke at his own expense. Nicknamed "The Human Vacuum Cleaner" during his playing days because of his unparalleled defense at the position and his 16 Gold Gloves, Robinson noted a former teammate, big, burly Boog Powell, stole more bases than he did during his career.

It was almost as if Robinson attempted to downgrade all the praise he received Tuesday.

Robinson won the award by an online poll conducted by Rawlings last season. He topped a ballot that included Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen.

Before the game, Robinson named the other players on the ballot. Standing in front of the Gold Glove he won in 1975, he deflected some of the attention to the other third basemen.

"They're as good as it gets," he said.

And he noted that he doesn't have the record for Gold Gloves anymore. Greg Maddux won his 17th last season. And then he quickly added with a big smile, "pitchers don't count."

But the other dignitaries on hand weren't as democratic.

"No one even came close," Atlantic League Executive Director Joe Klein said.

The other members of the all-time team -- including Ozzie Smith, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Willie Mays -- accepted their awards at major league ballparks, but Robinson chose York.

Brooks Robinson signs a ball for York Revolution pitcher Aaron Myette after Robinson was honored as the third baseman for the Rawlings All-Time Gold Glove
Brooks Robinson signs a ball for York Revolution pitcher Aaron Myette after Robinson was honored as the third baseman for the Rawlings All-Time Gold Glove Team. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Kate Penn)

He made his professional debut for the York White Roses in 1955, days after graduating from Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. A statue in his likeness was unveiled in front of York's downtown park earlier this season. And he is also a member of the York Revolution's ownership group, Opening Day Partners, and decided to bring the event to York because of his ties to the city -- and not a grudge with the Orioles or team owner Peter Angelos.

Robinson realizes a public perception exists that he is feuding with the Orioles, but he said that just isn't the case.

"I'm more frustrated with the Orioles than Brooks is," ODP chairman Peter Kirk said. "He's wanted to play more of a role, and it just hasn't worked out.

The York Revolution’s Matt Esquivel introduces himself to Brooks Robinson after Robinson posed for a picture with the team Tuesday at Sovereign Bank
The York Revolution's Matt Esquivel introduces himself to Brooks Robinson after Robinson posed for a picture with the team Tuesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Kate Penn)
"

Kirk asked Robinson to join his ownership group in the mid-80s after seeing him interact with fans in Hagerstown, Md.

"It was typical Brooks," Kirk said, "He was hugging everybody."

Too busy with other business obligations at the time, Robinson finally relented and joined ODP in 2003.

And he remains one of the most respected and admired men in baseball, for his skills as a player but perhaps more importantly for his humility. When asked why he decided to be a coach for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the Atlantic League after the Orioles decided not to bring him back as a minor league coach, Etchebarren said it took only one phone call to Robinson.

"I've met some great people in baseball," Etchebarren said earlier this season. "But he has to be one of the nicest people I've ever met."

jseip@ydr.com; 771-2025

DID YOU KNOW?

--- What is a Gold Glove?

The award has been handed out for 50 years to the best defensive players at each position in basball. The all-time team was named after a fan vote.

--- How many does Brooks Robinson have?

Robinson is tied with Jim Kaat with 16 Gold Gloves. Greg Maddux has the most in MLB history with 17.

--- Why York for the ceremony?

It was held at Sovereign Bank Stadium at the suggestion of Robinson and is the only minor-league stadium participating in honoring a member of the all-time team.
 

ON THE BLOG

York has a Brooks Robinson statue. Where's Baltimore's? Read more on the York Town Square blog.