As news of the death of Orioles great Brooks Robinson spread throughout Baltimore, fans traveled to Camden Yards to pay their respects.
Rick Wilson was on his way to the Nationals-Orioles game at Camden Yards on Tuesday, but when he heard that Robinson had died, he went back home and changed his shirt to a No. 5 Robinson jersey. For Wilson, it was the best way to honor his hero. Putting on the jersey reminded Wilson, who is 58, of the days when he wore a No. 5 shirt all summer in 1969.
”It had stains up and down the front and my mom finally burned it because it was so disgusting,” Wilson said. “But I lived in my Brooks Robinson No. 5 shirt every single day.”
Also packed in those childhood memories is the 1970 World Series when Wilson remembers watching Robinson be the “human vacuum cleaner.”
”He was unstoppable. Everything that came within 20 feet of where he was on third base, he just gobbled up and it was an automatic out,” said Wilson, who met Robinson once.
One of Wilson’s favorite memories is forever captured in the image of Robinson leaping as the Orioles swept the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.
“He looked like he’s 8 feet in the air,” Wilson said. “I mean, he was so excited.”
The family of Robinson announced Tuesday evening that he had died at 86. Before the Orioles’ 1-0 win against the Nationals, the team held a moment of silence to honor the career-long Oriole and Hall of Famer.
Baltimore native Jemma Markhoff, 91, said she was proud to stand for the tribute during the Tuesday night game.
”I remember watching him play in the old stadium before it was Camden Yards. I was absolutely a huge fan of his,” Markoff said, adding she had great conversation during his daughter’s wedding.
Keith Duerling was choked up with teary eyes as he stood next to Robinson’s statue outside the park’s Eutaw Street entrance. He could barely speak.
“He was just a great ball player,” Duerling said. “I met him a couple times and he was a real gentleman. Plus, I kept tabs on him over the years and he was the epitome of a lifelong Oriole.”
Brian “BA” Allen keeps a photo stored on his phone of one of the few times he met Robinson. A season ticket holder, Allen said he recalled Robinson being sincere, down-to-earth and great with kids.
“I met him, got his jersey, got him to sign it, and then I had met him at a signing a year prior and he took a picture with me,” Allen said. ”I mean, he would pose for pictures, he’d sign anything for kids. I mean, he was just very nice,” Allen added. “You knew he was just an Oriole figurehead for life.”
Ray Ebaugh and a few friends drove down to Camden Yards from Delaware. Ebaugh recalled driving a golf cart for Robinson when he was in Delaware.
”We talked about his whole sports career, his amazing play on third base,” Ebaugh said. “Truly a genuine and polite guy who was also interested in others. He didn’t just enjoy talking about his baseball career, but he was genuinely interested in what I was involved in for those few hours.”