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A Uni Watch Look at Brooks Robinson

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Baseball Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson died yesterday. I was lucky enough to see him play when I was growing up, albeit at the tail end of his career. In addition to writing the book on how to play third base, he was also the American League MVP in 1964, when he hit .317, slugged 28 homers, and knocked in a league-high 118 runs. A very special ballplayer.

From a Uni Watch perspective, Robinson was notable for two reasons. The first was his unique truncated batting helmet brim, which was immortalized on his 1975 Topps card:

Robinson began wearing the stubby brim around the same time he began wearing an earflapped helmet in the 1970s. Here are some additional views of it:

Why did he wear this custom brim? Here’s how he explained it on his blog in 2006:

“When I got the helmet with the flap and put it on, it seemed like the bill was a little longer than my normal [helmet]. The flap was a little longer and consequently when I went up to hit, I could see the brim and part of the flap. It made me lose my concentration. I took care of it by taking a hacksaw blade and cut about 1½ inches off the brim and about a half-inch off the flap. That’s how I got my short brim.”

The other big uni-related storyline during Robinson’s career was the solid-orange uniform that the Orioles wore for a few games in 1971 and ’72. Robinson owned a sporting goods store at the time, and the team actually ordered the uniforms from his shop. As a result, there are more photos of him wearing the orange unis than of any other player. Here’s a sampling:

Obviously, it’s not an ideal baseball uniform. But it had a saving grace: a magnificent inner tag design. Check this out:

Oh man, how great is that? Here’s another look at it — a slightly crisper photo from a different garment:


I love that they included his uni number — twice! — on the label design, just so you’d know it was him. R.I.P., Brooksie.


ITEM! New Substack Article

For this week’s Uni Watch Premium article over on Substack, I’ve taken a close look at “What if?” uniforms, most of which involve prototype designs that were produced (and, in some cases, officially unveiled, like the 49ers’ infamous 1991 helmet) but, for various reasons, never made it onto the field, ice or court. Each one represents an intriguing road not taken, and in this article I’ve covered well over a dozen examples spread across the Big Four pro leagues. Even if you know a lot of about prototype designs, I’m pretty sure there will be at least a couple of examples here that you haven’t seen before!

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack (which will also allow you to access my Substack archives). And this is a particularly good time to subscribe, because the annual NHL and NBA Season Previews are both coming up in the next few weeks.

My thanks, as always, for your support and consideration.



Too Good for the Ticker

The photo above is of the 1927-28 basketball team from Bar Harbor High School in Maine. Wish we could see a front view, because that looks like a pretty eccentric uni design!

(Big thanks to Jim Atherton for this one.)



Can of the Day

Who’s the enemy of friction? Orange Solid Oil, that’s who!

Comments (34)

    One non-uni factoid about Brooks that fascinated me: he threw right handed, but wrote with his left hand. Not too many folks do that, I would venture to say. -C.

    I take things a little further. I write left handed, but weld right handed. I bat left handed, and golf right handed.

    I bat left, throw right. Write right, eat left. Hockey right, golf right (but naturally left, broken thumb affected my grip).

    I’m lucky. I can go lefty or righty in just about any sport that uses a stick/bat/club. But anything else is right handed only. I can’t even dream of throwing left handed, trying to play a guitar left handed or writing with it.

    Joe Posnanski wrote about this last night. Apparently Brooks threw left handed when he was young and then in second grade he broke his left arm and collarbone. While this was healing he began throwing a ball with his right hand and became comfortable doing so. When he was healed he was not interested in learning how to throw left handed again. This is interesting because its not likely that he would have ever played third base as a lefty.

    Similar story to Billy Wagner, but in reverse. Wagner was a natural right-handed thrower, but broke his right arm playing football as a kid.

    He learned to throw left-handed and never went back. Wagner was right-handed in all other respects except for throwing his 100 mph fastball.

    Dale Murphy batted and threw righty, but writes lefty.

    Babe Ruth batted and threw lefty, but wrote righty. In his day many lefthanded children were forced to write right-handed.

    The greatest 3rd baseman of all time and a complete gentleman.

    I’ll never forget standing in line at the Crown Gas Station on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie, MD to get Brook’s autograph when I was 10. Someone else in line asked him about signing left-handed. I thought it was so cool because I’m a lefty.

    If you search, you can find pictures of him when he first got the short-brimmed helmet with no logo.

    1. Excellent photo of the Bar Harbor team! Wow, teen-agers looked so old a hundred years ago.

    2. Seifert and DeBartolo don’t look too thrilled with that new helmet logo. With good reason.

    That Brooks Robinson tag would make an awesome t-shirt
    My first mitt was a hand-me-down Brooks Robinson model. Though I was too young to watch him play, he instantly became one of my favorites. In a pre-internet world it wasn’t always easy to find highlights of him, so any time there was something on tv, it was amazing. Then my first LL team was the Orioles, and I only wanted to play third base!
    I had a poster of him on my wall from his HOF induction, not very usual for a kid in NY~
    Then I learned what a great person he was. RIP Brooksie-

    I grew up a Yankee fan so I hated the early-’70s Orioles teams, but Brooks Robinson was an exception. Shortstop is usually the “glamour” position in the infield, but watching Brooks made me love 3B even more. RIP.

    RIP Brooks. I know I’ll be getting in a fight at some point with somebody who says he was the greatest 3B ever (he wasn’t, Mike Schmidt was), but I still respect the man and his game…

    Brooks- American League MVP, World Series MVP, All Star Game MVP, 18 All Star Games, 16 Gold Gloves, 4 World Series appearances and 2 Championships.

    Clearly a subjective distinction of course, but according to this ESPN piece, Brooks is actually the fifth best third baseman of all time. link


    all ranked higher.

    I’d say he’s probably even with Schmidt and Brett — better fielder than both, not quite as great at the dish.

    YMMV and all that

    I loved Robinson and he was by far the greatest defensive 3rd baseman but Scmidt had 1,700 less plate appearances and 2,300 less at bats but hit almost 300 more HRs, almost 250 more RBIs, almost 650 more walks, 150 more stolen bases, more total bases, a higher on base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. They both hit .267 and Schmidt did strike out more. Schmidt was a 3x NL MVP, 8x HR leader, 4x RBI leader, 6x Silver Slugger. Also, he was no slouch in the field with 10 Gold Gloves. I think the numbers speak for themselves.

    Does anyone else think the ads are especially intrusive today? I am on my desktop and there is a giant black band across the top 1/3 of the browser and there doesn’t seem to be a way to close it. I am all for UW being subsidized with ad revenue but between the banner at the bottom, a large ad down the right side, and now a giant one across the top, more than half the screen is ads!

    You never disappoint!

    I came here today to find out how to send you the question about the short brim helmet. Of course, you already have an article posted that explains it!

    When he first started wearing the short-brimmed helmet, it was blank with no logo.
    It used to bug me when I was a kid.

    I grew up in Maryland and was an Orioles fan, Brooks was my favorite player. I met him in 1972 after a game against the Texas Rangers, it was the only baseball autograph I ever got. RIP

    I can remember reading a story in baseball digest 45 or so years ago, about a women who wanted to go to as brooks robinson for halloween. so she wrote the orioles a letter asking to borrow a uniform…and they send her one!

    She wore it for halloween, had a great time, packed it up and sent it back.

    can’t imagine that would ever happen today.

    As a kid who loved baseball uniforms, there was nothing better than seeing B. Robinson and F. Robinson in all their vertically arched glory.

    Wonderful player and that uniform tag is really very good as are the basketball team in checkers and the can.

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