Orioles fan JT Fauber stopped in front of the iconic statue of his all-time favorite player, Brooks Robinson, as he entered Camden Yards on Tuesday. After smiling for a photo, another fan approached cautiously — his somber face and tears in his eyes telegraphing his message: Robinson, a baseball legend particularly beloved in Baltimore for his glove and his spirit, had just died . He was 86 years old.
Fauber, a 61-year-old Virginia resident, responded in the only way possible: recounting the cherished memories of the Hall of Fame third baseman.
When Fauber (who played third base, he noted) and his Little League team won their championship one year, their reward was visiting Memorial Stadium and watching the Orioles. There, for the first time, he was able to see Robinson dive into foul territory and throw out a potential base runner at first base. Even more than Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, Fauber recalled, Robinson was his favorite athlete growing up.
Decades later, Fauber obtained Robinson’s autograph. That baseball, a treasured possession forever, still sits on his desk.
So stories were told at Camden Yards on Tuesday evening. Less than an hour before the Orioles hosted the Washington Nationals, Robinson’s death was announced and statues of the legendary third baseman became impromptu gathering spaces. Near a statue in left field, Thomas E. Kearney of Silver Spring knelt after praying. At the larger-than-life replica of him, aptly accented by his gold glove, on Paca Street, Howard Saks posed for a photo while wearing his own Robinson jersey.
Saks attended the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony of every Oriole inductee in Cooperstown, including Robinson.
“He was Baltimore baseball,” Saks said.
Known as “Mr. Oriole”, Robinson was remembered by many fans for his exceptional and iconic play during the 1970 World Series, in which Baltimore defeated the Cincinnati Reds in five games.
Chris Myers, from Richmond, Virginia, first attended an Orioles game when he was 4 years old in 1969. He remembers playing third base at age 9, and at that time- there he planned to succeed Robinson at the place where he had played. the latter’s retirement. For him, Robinson was an example of how to behave.
“Brooks was the poster child for the franchise,” said Myers, who learned while at the Eutaw Street statue that Robinson had died. “His alignment, his consistency, his personality. He showed up every day. He was a bit like Cal Ripken before Cal Ripken.
Myers’ daughter, Emma, grew up playing softball and she, too, played third. There, a coach nicknamed her “Hoover” – a nickname given to Robinson for her tendency to have everything her way.
“He was a great person, a great player,” she said.
In the 1970s, Ken Ayars was in the Army and stationed near Washington. Meanwhile, as Robinson, an 18-time All-Star during his 23 years with the Orioles, continued to cement his status as the greatest defensive third baseman of all time, Ayars couldn’t help but become a fan Orioles.
Now a 72-year-old resident of Florida, Ayars traveled to Baltimore this week to attend Sunday’s Ravens game and Tuesday’s Orioles game. On Tuesday morning, he visited the Robinson statue.
“And now he’s gone.” It’s heartbreaking,” said Ayars, who wore an orange jersey emblazoned with Robinson’s name and his retired jersey number, 5.
With tears in his eyes Tuesday night, another legendary Oriole, Jim Palmer, remembered his former teammate. Robinson won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves, Palmer noted, and he also won the Most Valuable Player award. But beyond that, Palmer said, Robinson was someone to emulate, someone to admire.
“We were all lucky to have her in our lives,” he said.
Before the game, the Orioles honored Robinson and observed a moment of silence. As fans filed into the stadium, they, too, memorialized Robinson — with stories of him confusing the Reds in the World Series or “hitting a ball out of the Memorial” or joking while he signed another autograph.
They may not have been his teammate, like Palmer, but they felt just as lucky to have him in their lives.
“I miss him already,” Ayars said. “He was a good guy. I don’t think they’re better than Brooks.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jacob Calvin Meyer contributed to this article.