It was fitting that the statue of legendary Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson, unveiled today, stands just outside the walls of Camden Yards, between Washington Blvd. and Russell St., in the city that embraced him as one of their own.
“I never considered you fans, I always considered you friends,” Robinson said, his voice choked with tears as his wife and dignitaries stood by and a crowd of about 1,000 cheered.
There was a lot of love for “Mr. Oriole” in the crowd, including many who wore his #5 jersey, and clustered eagerly around the nine-foot tall bronze statue with the golden glove, which now stands on a city-owned patch of land now called Brooks Robinson Plaza.
After the ceremony they were able to mob the 74-year-old Hall of Famer himself, asking for his autograph.
But the Orioles organization itself had little to do with the seven-year effort to get the statue made and erected, according to the man behind it, former Crown Central Petroleum CEO Henry Rosenberg.
Team owner Peter Angelos was not present today, nor was Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was listed on the program and sent her “deep regrets” that she was unable to attend. (Kevin Cleary, deputy director of the mayor’s office of neighborhoods, appeared in her place. He said he did not know why she couldn’t be there.)
About a third of the cost of the statue came from public donations – the rest of the bill was footed by Rosenberg himself, he has said.
But Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the actor Josh Charles, Joseph Sheppard (the Baltimore sculptor who made the statue) and a host of other dignitaries were there.
O’Malley said it was fitting that the statue of the iconic sports legend would stand at the entrance to the city. Mikuski noted how apt it is that it “shows him throwing the ball to first to bring it home – now we’re bringing Brooks home.”
Perhaps the most eloquent words of the day came from Charles, the Baltimore-born star of “The Good Wife” and “In Treatment,” who said he spoke for Baltimore sports fans:
“Brooks, in many ways, I think it’s appropriate that we stand here today separate and apart from the stadium itself because, for so many of us, you stand for more than just the Orioles or even baseball – you stand for Baltimore.”
“And I am so deeply honored to be here today because I know that, looking towards the future, many of us fans are going to have very similar experiences coming here to stand before Joe Sheppard’s magnificent statue.”
“Like every fan, I live for the year that the Orioles will return to greatness [APPLAUSE] and I know that someday when I have children, I will return to this very spot and my children and I will stand here together and they won’t ever ask me, ‘Hey, who is this?’ because, like everyone in the city of Baltimore, they’ll already know.”