O's icons Zoom in for Brooks' birthday

May 19th, 2020

It was maybe the most decorated Zoom call in baseball history.

Your favorite Orioles legends are just like you these days, taking to technology to catch up with old friends and celebrate big moments and milestones during the pandemic. Monday qualified as a milestone in Birdland, as it marked the 83rd birthday of Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson.

Stay-at-home orders prohibited what would’ve probably been a celebratory occasion at the Oriole Park at Camden Yards. So, the O's did the only thing that can be done these days to circumvent the circumstances -- they honored Robinson on video, inviting some of his best baseball friends to visit him virtually.

The result was maybe the greatest collection of Orioles talent ever assembled on one computer screen, with Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and Boog Powell all dropping in to bestow birthday wishes on to Robinson. That group was part of a larger collective of current players, front office executives, club legends, Baltimore sports figures, local politicians and members of the community who logged on for the same purpose.

All told, the call expanded to include members from all facets of the Orioles organization and beyond. And its purpose was to celebrate Robinson, who is approaching the 65th anniversary of his MLB debut this September. Robinson debuted as an 18-year old in 1955 and blossomed into an inner-circle Hall of Famer, spending the next 23 seasons with the Orioles and the rest of his life in Baltimore.

Also participating were executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, manager Brandon Hyde and several members of his coaching staff, current outfielder Trey Mancini, infielder Hanser Alberto, first baseman Chris Davis and reliever Evan Phillips, broadcaster and former second baseman Brian Roberts, Ravens placekicker Justin Tucker and Maryland governor Larry Hogan.

Toward the end of the call, Robinson was joined by nine children whose parents named them “Brooks,” after their favorite player. One Brooks has siblings named “Palmer” and “Ripken” while another had a sibling named “Camden.” They were reminders of the huge impact Robinson has made and the scope of his legacy after six-plus decades in the Charm City.

"Brooks Robinson is the greatest role model for everyone, especially young baseball players, myself included," Phillips, a Baltimore native, said. "He's someone you want to emulate and who has strengthened the character of the game so much. It was so special to me to be able to wish him a happy birthday and to also thank him for everything he's done for our game."

But that still doesn't make the Hall of Famer immune to ribbing from his former teammates.

That became clear when Robinson, Murray, Ripken, Palmer and Powell enjoyed their own private portion of the party, where they swapped old stories and traded lighthearted barbs from the comfort of their homes.

“Did you get [Robinson] released?” Palmer jokingly asked Murray.

“He knew he couldn’t keep up after he saw me my first year, so he thought he better retire,” Murray replied.

Robinson defended himself: “I taught him everything he knew, and you see, he hit 500 home runs.”

Some context: Robinson was in his final season when Murray debuted in 1977, having already played 12 seasons with Palmer and 14 with Powell. He’d become a longtime mentor of Ripken, who won a World Series title with Palmer and Murray in ’83. Robinson, Palmer and Powell were star teammates on World Series champion teams in ’66 and ’70, and now Robinson and Murray both hold advisory roles in the O’s front office.

As with so much of Orioles history, Robinson is the group’s connecting link.