Family, Teammates, Fans, and Current Orioles Remember Brooks Robinson

The Orioles honored the Hall of Famer with a public memorial service at Camden Yards Monday morning.

Several hundred Baltimore Orioles and Brooks Robinson fans turned out for the team’s public memorial for the Hall of Famer Monday morning at Camden Yards—with the ceremony fittingly held on the field near third base. Robinson, known as “Mr. Oriole,” was 86 when he passed away September 26.

Cal Ripken Jr., who grew up idolizing Robinson as a role model on and off the field, recalled making his debut start at Memorial Stadium at third base, saying he felt at the time like he was stepping on “sacred ground.”

“My mom and dad [longtime former Orioles coach and manager Cal Ripken Sr.] encouraged me to be like Brooks,” Ripken told those gathered in the folding chairs in front of him and those in the Camden Yards stands. “Not for how he played, but for how he handled himself.”

Ripken, who briefly got choked up, noted he missed playing with Brooks by a few years. “I would have loved to have been teammates with Brooks. We will miss him.”

Former Oriole Doug DeCinces, who initially succeeded Robinson at third and was also on hand Monday, recalled literally handing Robinson third base from Memorial Stadium on “Thanks, Brooks Day” in September 1977, after the 16-time Gold Glove winner had announced his retirement. “I whispered to him, ‘This bag will always be yours,’” DeCinces recounted, noting he still has the framed photo of the moment hanging in his office.

DeCinces added that Robinson always took time to help younger ballplayers—including his young, future successor—and make them feel at home, a trait recalled by all of his former teammates. Former first baseman Boog Powell said Robinson was the first Oriole he and his father met at his first spring training camp as an 18-year-old right out of high school in Florida.

“He told my dad, ‘Don’t worry, Mr. Powell, we’re going to take good care of your son.’ Brooks was like a brother to me,” Powell said, adding that he hopes to see Robinson “on the field again someday” and when he does, he’ll be awaiting his throw. “I love you and I miss you.”

More than the Gold Gloves, the 18 All-Star appearances, the World Series and American League MVP trophies, and the two World Series titles he brought to Baltimore, Robinson was remembered for his generousness, gentlemanly qualities, simple acts of kindness, and the easy smile he carried wherever he went.

“I’m 70, so I saw Brooks play firsthand, and he was always my favorite player on and off the field,” said Norb Petr, who attended the memorial with his wife, Janice. The couple’s first date, they said, had been an O’s game at Memorial Stadium with Robinson, of course, stationed at third base. “I met Brooks at the Orioles’ fantasy camp, which I did about eight years running, and every time we talked, it was like you and me talking right now,” Petr said. “Just like talking to a friend.”

Twin sisters and lifelong Orioles and Brooks Robinson fans Kim Allison and Debbie Halterman attended together. They first went to O’s games at Memorial Stadium with their grandfather, who lived nearby in Waverly. Both of their parents also worked in the Orioles’ ticket office at different times; their mother for 22 years, and their father after he retired from Tastykake.

“We just had a memorial for our father on Saturday, who was 90,” Allison said. “Brooks was our dad’s favorite player because of what he did on the field. He was mom’s favorite because of who he was off the field.”

Others on hand honoring Robinson included former teammates Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Rick Dempsey, and lifelong close friend Ron Hansen, who played shortstop for the Orioles when Robinson broke in. Orioles announcer Scott Garceau, who worked alongside Robinson in the broadcast booth for years, hosted the ceremony. A number of current Orioles, including Ryan Mountcastle, Tyler Wells, Kyle Gibson, Adam Frazier, Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, and Aaron Hicks—as well as general manager Mike Elias and the team’s chair and managing partner, John Angelos—also attended.

Hall of Famer Joe Torre, representing Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, recalled spending three weeks with Robinson during a visit to Vietnam in 1966 to meet with U.S. troops, making a lifelong friend in the process. “He left an impression on so many people and has changed so many lives for the better,” Torre said. “What a life to look back on. [In] 2023, not even fair to the other teams, you have [him] up there [rooting for you]. Great man. I loved him dearly.”

Many of Robinson’s family members and friends remarked that he remained a devoted Orioles fan right through this season, rarely missing a game on television.

Two of Robinson’s grandchildren, Grant and Brooks Farley, spoke, as did Robinson’s son, Brooks David Robinson. Even at an early age, they said, they became aware—and appreciative—of how beloved their father and grandfather was, forever connected to the team and the city.

“Rest in peace, Dad,” his son said. “We love you, we miss you, and if there’s anything you can do up there to help bring a World Series championship to Baltimore this year, we would greatly appreciate it.”