My one and only trip to Cooperstown was to see Brooks Robinson inducted into the Hall of Fame. It will remain one of the top highlights in my life. I was six years old when he retired, but between family, friends and the fact there was a huge highlight reel left behind by the “human vacuum cleaner” it was easy to get to know him.
Last fall, a statue of Brooks was unveiled just 300 yards away from Camden Yards. Wondering why it’s not in Camden Yards? Me, too. The statue was conceived by Henry Rosenberg, a local businessmen and longtime friend of Brooks. He started the project in 2004 and worked tirelessly along with the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation to have his friend set in bronze, larger than life. Literally. The statue is nine feet tall and 1,500 pounds with a bright gold glove ready to throw a runner out at first. I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, but from all accounts, it was humbling for everyone to watch a truly humble man receive such an honor.
Strangely absent from the October ceremony were representatives from the Orioles. Individuals and businesses were honored for their donations and hard work, but no mention of the Orioles. Brooks played for the team for 23 years. To fans over 40 he was Cal Ripken before Cal Ripken. The Orioles as a whole wouldn’t contribute or cooperate with any part of the long, very expensive process of immortalizing Brooks.
Conveniently, in December, the Orioles announced some upgrades to Camden Yards to coincide with the 20th anniversary season. Included in those upgrades are six larger-than-life sculptures of retired Hall of Famers Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken and, yes, you guessed it, Brooks Robinson. I understand the organization would want to celebrate former players in its own way, but to unveil these plans just weeks after the other Brooks statue ceremony is minor league at best. They wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Rosenberg project, and I doubt seriously this 20th season project was even an outline in 2004. If it was, why not make it clear to Rosenberg when he first approached them.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos continually finds ways to disappoint Orioles fans and Baltimore in general. It’s great the 20th season at Camden Yards will see improvements to the park and statues for Oriole greats. What would be really great: Field a competitive team for a change. Maybe you could’ve been a bit more respectful to the Rosenberg family, and at least take out a dollar or two from your big tobacco win (yes, Angelos’ law firm is the one that beat big tobacco) and send an Orioles representative to the October unveiling. The team Brooks help build wasn’t there to support him. Do you know how many kids were named Brooks in Baltimore during the ’60s and ’70s?
I started writing this article not sure where it was going; just feeling a bit pissed for one of my childhood heroes. Now, I’m just disappointed for all Orioles fans. The mess that is the Baltimore Orioles seems at this point intentional. Hey Pete, do you need a write-off every year? Do you dread Yankees and Red Sox games because you actually sell tickets? We have the best ballpark in baseball; it can’t be empty by accident. Find a more creative way to lose money, please. Give the fans of this once-proud and well-respected franchise something to cheer about. Hopefully Dan Duquette can actually talk some sense into you and try to rebuild what once was. If not, I’m afraid Peter Angelos’ lack of vision has caused a whole generation of fans to care more about Baltimore football, and rightly so.