Brooks Would've Had It!
Another re-post from my internal NSA blog, 2010 or so.
True Baltimor-ons out there will understand. The rest of you, please be patient.
My friends know that I am not much of a professional sports fan. Like every kid in the area, I grew up rooting for the Colts and the Orioles. Nowadays, I'll watch an occasional game on TV, but I have no particular interest in watching pampered millionaires play games when I could be out doing something active myself.
But last Saturday, I closed a loop on part of my childhood - I attended an autograph signing by Brooks Robinson. Brooks is, of course, a local sports icon and one of the greatest names in the history of sports. The "All-Century" Third Baseman. More importantly to me, he is a childhood sports hero who has never let his fans down. No tantrums, no scandals, no big ego. By all accounts, he is still a pretty normal guy. He was a hero from an earlier time, when you could run into Artie Donovan (Baltimore Colts) volunteering at the Special Olympics, or say hi to Wes Unseld (Baltimore Bullets) at a charity softball game. I was one of those kids playing in the Aberdeen Little League, riding the school bus down to Memorial Stadium, and sitting in the bleachers for Little League Day.
So my life list ( I can't bring myself to say "bucket list") included making the opportunity to meet Brooks, shake his hand, and say "thanks" for the memories and the inspiration. On Saturday, I took along a book he co-wrote which he autographed sometime in the early 70's. Waiting in line, I heard his voice from the back of the store long before I saw him, and it was a thrill that's hard to describe. In just a few moments, I said my thanks, and had him sign the book under his old faded autograph. I also told him the story - my Mom got him to sign that book for me when she was the hostess at the Nichi Bei Kai restaurant in Lutherville. He immediately remembered the place, and recalled several great times he had there dining with a number of the Orioles.
When I was young, I wanted to *be* Brooks Robinson. I wanted to be the guy with the amazing hand-eye coordination, saving the run with a dive onto the third base line and a throw across the infield.
Now that I am *not* young, I still want to be Brooks Robinson - to be a professional at the top of his game, yet still true to his basic principles of grace, humility, and gratitude.
"There's not a man who knows him who wouldn't swear for his integrity and honesty and give testimony to his consideration of others. He's an extraordinary human being, which is important, and the world's greatest third baseman of all time, which is incidental." -- John Steadman of the News American.