Gold Glover for life: 3B Robinson honored

Best defensive third baseman of all time earns lifetime achievement award

November 12th, 2016

NEW YORK -- The way they'd planned it, Brooks Robinson wasn't supposed to play the hot corner. But this weekend, the first-ballot Hall of Fame third baseman was honored once again for his legendary glovework.

"I've always had the good hand-eye coordination," Robinson said before the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards ceremony, where he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. "I was signed as a second baseman. They figured well, that kid is going to get killed over there. Let's move him to third, so he doesn't have to move around that much."

The Orioles couldn't have been more prescient. Who knows what kind of second baseman Robinson would have been? But he became arguably the best third baseman of all time -- certainly the best defensively -- compiling 16 Gold Glove Awards, 15 All-Star selections, two World Series titles and an American League Most Valuable Player Award, while spending his 23 seasons in Baltimore.

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Nicknamed the "Human Vacuum Cleaner," Robinson won 16 Gold Glove Awards -- the most of any position player and tied for second most overall behind righty Greg Maddux (18). Robinson's honors came consecutively from 1960-75, providing the bedrock for his Lifetime Achievement Award.

"It means a lot," Robinson, 79, said. "Defense is always overlooked to a certain degree."

Robinson, who signed with Rawlings early in his career, is one of 10 members of the company's Gold Glove Hall of Fame, along with Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Kaat, Maddux, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Ozzie Smith and 2016 inductee Al Kaline.

"Being from Baltimore, [Kaline] has a special place in his heart for Baltimore, too," Robinson said. "He was the best right fielder for a long time."

Robinson chuckles at the differences between the way defense is played and valued today, compared with how it was during his career. He remembers shifting against one hitter -- Ted Williams -- during the six seasons their careers overlapped. Robinson made his Major League debut at age 18 in 1955, and he played sporadically during those first several seasons. But he remembers moving over to what is traditionally the shortstop area to guard against Williams, who still hit .336 in those last six years.

"Now its unbelievable how they move around," Robinson said. "It doesn't work all the time, but I think a majority of the time, it works pretty good."

Robinson ended up playing 2,870 of his 2,896 career games at third. He eventually found himself at second base -- for a measly 35 1/3 innings. But he survived to build a legacy that lives on.