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Sports Heroes Who Served: Baseball Legend Brooks Robinson

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Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Most baseball fans recognize the name Brooks Robinson. He played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 to 1977 and is widely considered to be the best defensive third baseman ever.

A man plays baseball.
Brooks Robinson
Third baseman Brooks Robinson played for the Baltimore Orioles between 1955 and 1977. Robinson also served in the military.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles
VIRIN: 730615-O-ZZ999-003

Robinson joined the Arkansas Army National Guard in March 1958. He was activated and assigned to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and later to the Army's 78th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas.

Robinson served  as an ordnance parts specialist. While on the rifle range for qualification with the M1 Garand rifle in November 1958, Robinson received a commendation for his performance as a squad leader for his unit. It stated, ''He has performed his duties in an excellent and commendable manner. It is recommended he be considered for more rapid promotion than his contemporaries.''

A man plays baseball.
Brooks Robinson
Third baseman Brooks Robinson played for the Baltimore Orioles between 1955 and 1977. Robinson also served in the military.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles
VIRIN: 730615-O-ZZ999-002

Officials with the Arkansas National Guard at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, said he was honorably discharged from Company A, 739 Ordnance Battalion, in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Jan. 2, 1962. 

In 1966, Robinson, by then a civilian, visited troops in all four corps areas of South Vietnam. Traveling with him on the morale-boosting tour were Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Torre and Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves, Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins, and sportscaster Mel Allen.

A man plays baseball.
Brooks Robinson
Third baseman Brooks Robinson played for the Baltimore Orioles between 1955 and 1977. Robinson also served in the military.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles
VIRIN: 730615-O-ZZ999-005

During the tour, Killebrew was heard telling Robinson that the league champion Orioles played the best ball in the American League that year and that the Orioles deserved to win the pennant.

Brooks Robinson helped the Orioles advance to the postseason six times, with Baltimore winning four American League pennants (1966, 1969, 1970, 1971) and two World Series (1966, 1970) during his career. In 39 career postseason games, Robinson hit .303 with five homers and 22 runs batted in.

The Orioles retired his No. 5 jersey in 1977. He led all American League third basemen 11 times in fielding percentage and eight times in assists. His 2,870 games at third base rank No. 1 on the all-time list.

A man plays baseball.
Brooks Robinson
Third baseman Brooks Robinson played for the Baltimore Orioles between 1955 and 1977. Robinson also served in the military.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles
VIRIN: 730615-O-ZZ999-004

Frank Robinson, another baseball great, once said that Brooks Robinson was the best defensive player at any position. ''I used to stand in the outfield like a fan and watch him make play after play. I used to think, 'Wow! I can’t believe this,''' he said.

Frank Robinson also played for the Orioles. His time with the team overlapped with that of Brooks Robinson from 1966 to 1971.

More About Brooks Robinson

  • As a  boy, Robinson operated the scoreboard at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock. The baseball sequence from the 1984 film ''A Soldier's Story'' was filmed there.
  • In 1955, Robinson played baseball in South America; he played in Cuba in 1957.
  • In 2012, a large bronze statue of him was unveiled at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

 

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