The greatest defensive third baseman in baseball history received confirmation of that title yesterday in the city where he made his professional debut.

Brooks Robinson, who played with the Orioles for 23 seasons, was presented with the Rawlings All-Time Gold Glove for third base in a pre-game ceremony before the Newark Bears played the York Revolution, the independent Atlantic League team that is partly owned by Robinson.

The Human Vacuum Cleaner won 16 Gold Gloves while with the Orioles, but this one was picked solely by fans.

His direct competition included other multiple Gold Glove winners such as Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.

So the all-time award, presented in front of about 4,500 fans, has special meaning.

"Absolutely," said Robinson, who still has all of his Gold Gloves.

"It is a little popularity contest that goes with it," Robinson said. "I mean, you watch a guy like Mike Schmidt or Graig Nettles or Clete Boyer or Scott Rolen now, and they're as good as you get."

Rawlings awarded an all-time Gold Glove for each position, and all the living recipients were presented theirs in the major league cities where they starred.

Except for Robinson, who made the switch from second base to third as an 18-year-old member of the York White Roses in 1955.

"I played third base in my first games professionally here. I helped break ground in this stadium, watched it being built," Robinson, 71, said.

"[I'm] part-owner of the team. So it kind of made sense," he said.

He said that since Major League Baseball was not part of the promotion, it was his decision to be honored 50 miles north of Baltimore, in York, where a street and baseball plaza are named after him and where a life-size statue of him greets Revolution fans outside two-year-old Sovereign Bank Stadium.

Robinson said he wasn't concerned about speculation that he chose York over Baltimore because of a perceived rift between him and Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

"It didn't bother me one way or the other, because there is speculation every day in the paper," Robinson said.

"There have been four or five articles, and people talk about it on the radio all the time. So it doesn't bother me one way or the other," he said.

He said he and Angelos have had meetings but haven't come to any specific business agreements.

The pre-game ceremony yesterday included a video tribute and a special uniform change, in which all the York players wore "B. Robinson" on their backs instead of their names.

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

dan.connolly@baltsun.com