Brooks Robinson makes another incredible play during a game on July 27, 1964. He had a season of incredible fielding and batting.
Brooks Robinson makes another incredible play during a game on July 27, 1964. He had a season of incredible fielding and batting. (UNKNOWN / THE BALTIMORE SUN)

OK, so the stars weren’t aligned. The greatest baseball year in Brooks Robinson’s career did not produce an Orioles’ championship. More’s the pity because 55 years ago, the Hall of Fame third baseman crunched numbers that made him the American League’s Most Valuable Player — the first Oriole so named. He had career highs in batting (.317), homers (28) and RBIs (118), which led the AL. His fielding? Sublime.

In the summer of 1964, with the Orioles and White Sox locked in a tight flag race, three games in Chicago showed Robinson’s mettle. On Aug. 21, he hit his 21st homer and a run-scoring single in a 4-2 victory. The next night, he doubled and scored the first run, then hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning before more than 46,000 fans in another 4-2 win. The Orioles’ bench erupted.

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“When [Robinson] reached the dugout,” The Sun reported, “one might have thought it was the hit to end a World Series.”

In the clubhouse, No. 5 shrugged it off.

“Thirty-nine more games left, you know,” he said. “I might not get another hit.”

The next night, Robinson lashed three more hits and scored two runs in the Orioles’ 7-3 victory. They left town with a 1½-game lead. For 92 days, they held first place, for the last time on Sept. 18 — “Brooks Robinson Night” at Memorial Stadium. Fans and teammates presented him with a car, a color portrait of himself, a German shepherd puppy and 50 shares of Orioles stock, then gave him a standing ovation.

Robinson’s response? A first-inning RBI single to launch a 10-8 win.

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