THE ORIOLES will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Brooks Robinson's major league debut Saturday at Camden Yards, but Robinson won't be there to help.
"They asked me, but I just don't want to do that," Robinson, 68, said yesterday.
"Paul Blair and those guys used to kid me. They'd ask how many retirement ceremonies and 'Thanks, Brooks' days there were going to be," Robinson said.
But another reason he doesn't want any part of some ceremony is his relationship with the Orioles. It's distant.
"I just kind of do what I do, and they do what they do," he said. "I come to maybe four or five games a year. I know the players. I know the manager. I follow them. I pull for them. I feel bad when they lose. But that's about it."
Given the tenuous relationship between the team and some of its fans in the wake of the Rafael Palmeiro and Sidney Ponson debacles, Robinson would seem to be a natural asset the Orioles could wield in the community. No one makes people feel better about baseball.
But Robinson is affiliated with minor league entrepreneur Peter Kirk's Maryland Baseball Limited partnership, not with the Orioles.
He hasn't been around the Orioles since he stopped working their television broadcasts in the early 1990s.
Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka pointed out Robinson isn't estranged from the club, having said yes to several major appearance requests over the years, including an on-field speech the night Cal Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak in 1995. Robinson also appears at the team's fantasy camp.
But as far as a permanent relationship, Robinson said he has met with owner Peter Angelos several times in the past five or six years about a community-related role, but "we never worked anything out." In fact, Robinson said, he never heard back from Angelos.
"I had talked to him, and I didn't get any info back. That was that," Robinson said. "I don't want to put [Angelos] in a bad light. I just never got a response. I think they're looking for someone who can be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I understand that. But I don't have that kind of time, and I don't have to do it."
Frankly, it's amazing the club couldn't find a role for him. Robinson isn't just a Hall of Famer who could make people feel better about the Orioles, whatever condition they're in. He's a walking franchise encyclopedia.
"I think I've met every player who ever wore the uniform," he said. "Well, maybe there were a couple from 1954 who were gone by the time I got here [in 1955]. But other than that, I met them all."
He laughed as he recalled the first of his 2,896 regular-season games. He was 18, three months removed from his high school graduation. The Orioles had signed him as a second baseman and given him a $4,000 bonus. He spent the summer playing minor league ball in York, Pa., where manager George Staller converted him to third base.
"The Orioles brought me up at the end of the year. I came to the park [on Sept. 17, 1955] and a third baseman had gotten hurt. I think Billy Klaus slipped in the bathtub or something," Robinson said. "It was not a big deal. [Manager] Paul Richards just told me I was playing."
He collected two hits against the Senators, went back to his room at the Southern Hotel, called his parents in Arkansas and told them the major leagues were easy.
"I told them I didn't know why I'd been in York all year," he said. "Then I went 0-for-18 with 10 strikeouts the rest of the season."
He broke into the majors for keeps in the second half of the 1959 season, and retired in 1977.
"It passed so fast that sometimes it feels like I didn't play at all," he said. "Now I'll be watching on TV and someone will make a nice play at third, and I'll go, 'Did I really used to do that?' Then the announcer will say, 'That was a Brooks Robinson play,' and I'll go, 'Well, I guess I did.'"
Baseball still keeps him relatively busy. He is president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, gives speeches, makes appearances, plays in golf tournaments.
He does what he wants. And he knows what he doesn't want to do.
"I appreciate the Orioles for thinking of me and the 50-year thing," he said. "But as far as me coming down [to the park], I just told them there's no reason we need to do that."
No bows for Brooks
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