Friday, April 28, 2006

It's True: Brooks Robinson Was A Popup Dropper

Once, after the great Willie Mays had dropped a fly ball, a venerable sportswriter described it thusly:

"The last time Mays dropped one of those, he was wearing a bonnet and shaking a rattle."

It was one of the game's better pieces of copy.

There was something that I was sure had happened in my childhood, and on my birthday. We used to go to Tigers games every August 6th. The team always seemed to be home on my birthday, so for about eight years, the tradition was such that I'd be allowed to invite two friends, and we'd head to the corner with my folks to catch the game. Anyhow, I had embedded into my memory file that I had witnessed the great Brooks Robinson -- Hall of Famer and quintessential third baseman -- drop a harmless foul popup on my birthday in 1975.

The Tigers, I had told myself, were in the thick of their 19-game losing streak when the O's came calling. And I kept replaying in my mind -- this is almost 31 years ago, you know -- the image of Brooksie settling under a foul ball between third base and the Tigers dugout. And dropping it.

Robinson dropped it -- yessiree

It was the simplest of plays. Little Leaguers make it all the time. Even overweight, old men at the company picnic's softball game can make that play.

Yet Robinson dropped it, the ball simply popping out of his glove like a superball off a playground's asphalt. My file card tells me the crowd gasped slightly, scarcely able to believe what they'd just seen: Brooks Robinson, dropping a foul popup?

So for confirmation I went to my newest most favorite website, I looked up the boxscore from 8-6-75. Sure enough, the Tigers played the Orioles. But wait -- a doubleheader? I don't remember watching two games, but maybe we did. I checked the boxscore of Game 1, and there it was:

ERRORS- B. Robinson (6).

Almost there.

I went to the game's play-by-play, and looked for any mention of Robinson's miscue. And there it is -- in the fourth inning, I believe:

"Robinson dropped Baldwin's foul popup."

Baldwin was Billy Baldwin, who would eventually be part of the trade that sent Mickey Lolich to the Mets for Rusty Staub. And Baldwin, the PBP said, doubled after Robinson's error, driving in a run. But the Tigers lost. And I was right; the loss was their 12th during that 19-game skid.

I still don't remember watching Game 2, but we must have, because my parents weren't "leave the game early" people.

Oh, and another footnote that I discovered: Former Tiger Jim Northrup played for the Orioles that night in Game 1, in what would be his last season. He went 1-for-3.

But Brooks Robinson did indeed drop a foul popup, just like I had always thought -- and that I had been telling people for years.

I'm not sure if he was wearing a bonnet and shaking a rattle the last time that had happened, however.


Blogger Ozz said...

Wasn't that Brooks' last season? Maybe the next to last season?

9:00 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

He played until '77, then retired mid-season.

11:53 PM  

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