Two nights before the Series began he sat down in the family room of his home in Lutherville, Md., a Baltimore suburb about 15 minutes from third base at Memorial Stadium, and gave the singular reason why he thought the Orioles were a super baseball team, not just a team of superstars.
"I can laugh at myself, Frank can laugh at himself, we can all laugh at each other," he said.
This season, though, was a drag for Brooks. He slumped to a miserable .234 batting average, the fourth consecutive year in which his average has fallen off, but he did hit 23 home runs, drive in 84 runs and his play around third base never slacked off. Now, as he looked around the room at the nine Golden Gloves, the MVP trophy and the 79 other trophies and plaques and pieces of memorabilia that he has collected, Robinson said that the 1969 season did not excite him. "The kind of year we had," he said, "is responsible for the kind of year I had. How many important games did the Orioles play all year? The batting average was discouraging, and perhaps this is a time when I should be saying, 'Gee, maybe I can't hit .280 anymore.' But that's not how I feel. I simply was lazy all year, and I can't excuse myself for it."
The challenge and the excitement of the first American League playoff woke Robinson fast enough. He hit .500—seven hits in 14 at bats—as the Orioles won three straight from the Twins, and it was a typically sensational Robinson play at third base in the first inning of the third game that totally destroyed any momentum the Twins were trying to build after losing the first two games. He speared a terrific smash by Rod Carew and probably saved two runs.
The Orioles partied for a short time in their clubhouse after defeating the Twins, but Robinson was not among the revelers. Instead, he was submerged in the whirlpool bath, away from the champagne squirting and the kangaroo court. "Brooks takes care of himself," said Pete Richert, the relief pitcher. "Don't get me wrong. He's not an individual around here. It's just that he knows what he's got to do to keep in shape. If he has to take a whirlpool instead of champagne, then he takes a whirlpool."
All year long Robinson contributed perhaps more money to the club's kangaroo court than any other Oriole. "Every day Brooks would make the first motion to adjourn the court so he could go home," said McNally, "and right off the judge [ Frank Robinson] would fine him for contempt of court. When Brooksie wants to go home, he wants to go home."
Then, on the eve of his second World Series (he hit a home run and fielded flawlessly as the Orioles swept the Dodgers in 1966), Robinson was ready for the Mets. "I never worry about my fielding," he said. "I don't mean to brag, but the Mets know, I think, that I can field. At bat, I just want to get some top hand into my swing. I've been pulling away from the ball, not hitting it, and I've got to concentrate on that."
Robinson respected the Mets. "We're superior on defense, I know that," he said. "But you know, they might never have to make a tough defensive play in the Series. And they're New York, remember that. Playing the Mets and beating them will do more for our name than if we beat some other team. They're New York."
Well, after the first two games, the Mets were still New York (they were, quite obviously, still the Mets, too) and the Orioles were still the Orioles and Brooks Robinson was still Brooks Robinson.