Clutching their No. 5 jerseys and holding color photos at the ready, fans waited in line at the Hilton in Pikesville to see Mr. Oriole himself, former third baseman Brooks Robinson, signing autographs as he continues a recovery from a two-week stint in the hospital that ended April 15.
At the Charm City Heroes event, where dozens of Baltimore sports stars were signing memorabilia Saturday, Robinson was in good spirits. He greeted some of the same fans who sent him hundreds of get- well cards and letters of support while he was hospitalized for an infection at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
Friday was "the first time I've been out since I got home from the hospital a little over a week ago," Robinson said. "I'm getting stronger every day."
The day before he was supposed to undergo routine surgery in March, Robinson developed a fever and infection and was taken to GBMC, according to a statement he released shortly after being admitted. Robinson was also treated for prostate cancer in 2009, and announced that he remains cancer-free.
Terri Hett, 52, received a peck on the cheek from the legendary third baseman before walking away with Robinson's signature on a bright-red baseball bat. Robinson's career spanned her childhood: She began watching him play for the Orioles when she was 4 years old, and Robinson's retirement in 1977 coincided with the year she graduated from high school.
"He was my childhood hero. Brooks was my guy, growing up as a kid with my dad," said Hett, who sent Robinson a letter of support when he was in the hospital. "You kind of take those moments for granted, and things change."
Greg Rogers, 53, got the chance to introduce Robinson to his son — whom he named after the Orioles player. Brooks Rogers, 18, said he played baseball growing up, also as a third baseman.
"He was my hero growing up as a kid, so I named [my son] after my hero," said Greg Rogers, of Glenwood. "He was the best at his position and a great hitter and a wonderful person."
The father and son even had a custom No. 5 jersey made with "Brooks" on the back instead of the standard "B. Robinson," which Robinson signed for them Saturday.
Many players of Robinson's era stayed with the same team for their entire careers, which made fans more devoted to them, Greg Rogers said. Growing up in Maryland, he said, he watched Robinson "all through my lifetime." Robinson played 23 seasons for the Orioles.
"His era was huge. We're still following his career," said Rogers, who works for the Howard County Board of Education. "Now, players move so often, it's hard to follow them."
Jason Campbell, 31, is too young to have watched Robinson play. But he, too, learned to love Robinson through his father, and said the very first baseball he owned was signed by Robinson.
"He's Mr. Oriole," said Campbell, who works in retail and lives in Hagerstown. "He was the face of the franchise until Cal [Ripken Jr.] came."
Robinson's daughter, Diana Farley, and his young grandson, Grant, stood behind Robinson as he signed autographs. Grant also plays baseball as a third baseman and said he got a kick out of all the fans lining up to see his grandfather, known as "Poppy" in the family.
"Everybody loves him so much," Diana Farley said. "We're just glad he's out of the hospital."
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