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Hall of Fame Orioles third baseman, Brooks Robinson, dies at 86

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Brooks Robinson is a name familiar to baseball fans. He spent his entire career, 23 seasons in Major League Baseball, playing for the Baltimore Orioles. When the team yesterday announced his death at the age of 86, they paid tribute to him with a simple nickname, Mr. Oriole.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Robinson was best known for defense, winning 16 Gold Gloves, which is given for superior performance in fielding.

INSKEEP: Wow.

MARTIN: But former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said what Robinson meant to the game went far beyond his own play.

FAY VINCENT: The rules of the game and the honor of the game are very important to baseball, and he was a man of great honor. He was a civilized human being. He was very much a leader on his team.

MARTIN: And make no mistake, Robinson was a star - a Hall of Famer, 18-time All-Star and the MVP remembered for lifting Baltimore over Cincinnati in the 1970 World Series.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Look at that. Great day in the morning. What a play.

MARTIN: There was a homer in Game 1 of the 1966 World Series that helped give his adopted hometown its first major league crown and made him the star of a universal newsreel.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: Brooks Robinson is the very next batter to face Drysdale, and he puts one into the stands in almost the same spot.

INSKEEP: We should talk like those newsreel announcers, I think. That would be a good way to do this story.

The Orioles last night noted how he played with a childlike spirit. Here's Robinson himself at his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.

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BROOKS ROBINSON: Throughout my career, I was committed to the goodness of this game. In fact, I feel my love for the game of baseball overrode everything else.

INSKEEP: And here's baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.

VINCENT: There was a great humility about Brooks. He never took himself too seriously. You know, he knew he was a very good player, but he never acted like a big shot.

MARTIN: For StoryCorps in 2009, one of his fans, Bob Panara, recalled meeting Robinson when Panara was a kid and watching him use American Sign Language to ask whether he was deaf.

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BOB PANARA: I said, hey, you know sign language. Where did you learn? He said, well, I grew up in Little Rock, Ark., only blocks from the School for the Deaf, so I used to play with the deaf kids. He became my idol after that.

INSKEEP: He was the idol of many people. A few years ago, Forbes Magazine noted that decades after his retirement, people in Baltimore still named their kids Brooks.

MARTIN: Norman Rockwell even painted him in 1971 signing an autograph for a kid. The painting was called "Gee, Thanks, Brooks." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.