Hall of Fame 3B, Orioles legend Brooks Robinson dies at 86

BALTIMORE -- Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, whose deft glovework and folksy manner made him one of the most beloved and accomplished athletes in Baltimore history, has died. He was 86.

"We are deeply saddened to share the news of the passing of Brooks Robinson," his family and the Orioles said in a joint statement. "An integral part of our Orioles Family since 1955, he will continue to leave a lasting impact on our club, our community, and the sport of baseball."

The statement did not say how Robinson died.

The Orioles held a moment of silence before their game against the Washington Nationals, and the teams lined up outside their dugouts to pay their respects. Also before the game, fans gathered around the 9-foot bronze statue of Robinson inside Camden Yards.

"I think a lot of guys tonight played with a heavy heart," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said after Baltimore's 1-0 victory. "He's an icon in this game and an icon in this city. There's not many of those."

Coming of age before the free agent era, Robinson spent his entire 23-year career with the Orioles. He almost single-handedly helped Baltimore defeat Cincinnati in the 1970 World Series and homered in Game 1 of the Orioles' 1966 sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers for their first crown.

"Great player, great guy on the field, great guy off," said fellow Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who was overcome with emotion. "Respectful, kind. And you don't meet too many guys like that. Brooks was a genuine person. There was no acting. Brooks was just a genuine person."

Robinson participated in 18 All-Star Games and earned the 1964 AL Most Valuable Player award after batting .318 with 28 home runs and a league-leading 118 RBIs. He finished his career with 268 homers, 1,357 RBIs and a respectable .267 batting average in 2,896 career games.

But he will be forever remembered for his work ethic and the skill he displayed at the hot corner, where he established himself as one of the finest fielding third baseman in baseball history, whether charging slow rollers or snaring liners down the third-base line.

Known as the "Human Vacuum Cleaner," Robinson won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves -- second only to pitcher Greg Maddux's (18) for most by a player at one position. Robinson also places third in career defensive WAR at 39.1 behind shortstops Ozzie Smith (44.2) and Mark Belanger (39.5), who was Robinson's teammate for 13 years with the Orioles.

"Brooks was maybe the last guy to get into the clubhouse the day of the game, but he would be the first guy on the field," former Orioles manager Earl Weaver said. "He'd be taking his groundballs, and we'd all go, 'Why does Brooks have to take any groundballs?'

"I wouldn't expect anything else from Brooks. Seeing him work like that meant a lot of any young person coming up. He was so steady, and he steadied everybody else."

Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker recalled Robinson's friendship during the early years of his career, when he broke in with Atlanta in the late 1960s.

"I'm just sad. Another great one is called to heaven," Baker said. "They got some all-stars up there.

"He was really nice to me when I was a rookie with the Braves. We used to barnstorm with him all the time and he was a real gentleman. ... I never heard anything negative about him, ever. And he was on a team that with the Orioles had a number of African-American players. I think they had 10 or 12. They all loved him. That's saying a lot. Especially back in that day."

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1937, Robinson eventually made Baltimore his home but never really lost his southern twang, which was just fine with fans in blue-collar Baltimore, who appreciated his homespun charm and unassuming demeanor.

Dubbed "Mr. Oriole," he was a sports hero in Charm City, in the pantheon with former Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas and Orioles infielder Cal Ripken, who performed for a different generation.

Ripken was known as The Iron Man because he played in 2,632 consecutive games, but Robinson wasn't fond of sitting on the bench, either. From 1960-1975, he played in at least 152 games in 14 seasons and in 144 games the other two years.

"I'm a guy who just wanted to see his name in the lineup everyday," he said. "To me, baseball was a passion to the point of obsession."

Robinson retired in 1977 after batting only .149 in 24 games. His jersey was retired that year.

"I will always remember Brooks as a true gentleman who represented our game extraordinarily well on and off the field all his life," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Brooks' family, his many friends across our game, and Orioles fans everywhere."

Robinson's most memorable performance came as MVP of the 1970 World Series, when the Orioles bounced back from their stunning defeat to the New York Mets the year before and Robinson redeemed himself after batting just 1 for 19 in that series. Because he was so sensational in the field during Baltimore's five-game triumph over the Reds, few remember he hit .429 and homered twice and drove in six runs -- or that he made an error on his first play in the field.

In Game 1, Robinson delivered the tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning. One inning earlier, he made a sensational backhanded grab of a hard grounder hit down the line by Lee May, spun around in foul territory and somehow threw out the runner.

Robinson contributed an RBI single in the second game and became forever a part of World Series lore with his standout performance in Game 3. He made a tremendous, leaping grab of a grounder by Tony Perez to start a first-inning double play; charged a slow roller in the second inning and threw out Tommy Helms; then capped his memorable afternoon with a diving catch of a liner by Johnny Bench. The Series ended, fittingly, with a ground out to Robinson in Game 5, a 9-3 Orioles win.

"I'm beginning to see Brooks in my sleep," Reds manager Sparky Anderson said during the Series. "If I dropped this paper plate, he'd pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first."

Robinson was elected into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1983. In 1999, he was named to baseball's All-Century team, which honored the best 25 players of the 20th century. His No. 5 is one of just six jerseys retired by the Orioles franchise.

Starting in 2009, Robinson was beset by a string of health scares. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, had abdominal surgery in 2010, developed an infection while recovering from the abdominal surgery in 2011 and in 2012 his chair fell off a platform at a banquet, forcing him to spend a month in the hospital.

In his later years, Robinson auctioned off nearly all of his vast memorabilia.

"My children, they have everything they ever wanted from my collection," Robinson said in 2015. "We've been very blessed, my whole family, all the years we've been in Baltimore. So it's time to give back."

Robinson said "every cent" of the proceeds was to go to the Constance and Brooks Robinson Foundation for distribution to worthy causes.

In July 2018, Robinson was announced as the Orioles' special adviser, with Robinson saying he'll be more focused on community events.

"I talked to [chair and managing partner] John Angelos about three weeks ago, and we had lunch," Robinson said. "I told him, 'I'll do anything, but I don't want to have to make any decisions about baseball. That's passed me by, if you want to know the truth.'"

In addition to his role in the Orioles front office, Robinson also served as president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.