Baseball's Best Defensive Third Baseman Also Served in the Army National Guard

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Third baseman Brooks Robinson played for the Baltimore Orioles between 1955 and 1977. Robinson also served in the military. (Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles)

Most baseball fans recognize the name Brooks Robinson. He played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 to 1977 and is widely considered to be the best defensive third baseman ever.

Robinson joined the Arkansas Army National Guard in March 1958. He was activated and assigned to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and later to the Army's 78th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas.

He served as an ordnance parts specialist. While on the rifle range for qualification with the M1 Garand rifle in November 1958, Robinson received a commendation for his performance as a squad leader for his unit. It stated, ''He has performed his duties in an excellent and commendable manner. It is recommended he be considered for more rapid promotion than his contemporaries.''

(Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles)

Officials with the Arkansas National Guard at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, said he was honorably discharged from Company A, 739 Ordnance Battalion, in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Jan. 2, 1962.

In 1966, Robinson, by then a civilian, visited troops in all four Corps Tactical Zones of South Vietnam. Traveling with him on the morale-boosting tour were Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Torre and Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves, Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins, and sportscaster Mel Allen.

During the tour, Killebrew was heard telling Robinson that the league champion Orioles played the best ball in the American League that year and that the Orioles deserved to win the pennant.

Robinson helped the Orioles advance to the postseason six times, with Baltimore winning four American League pennants (1966, 1969, 1970 and 1971) and two World Series (1966 and 1970) during his career. In 39 career postseason games, Robinson hit .303 with five homers and 22 runs batted in.

The Orioles retired his No. 5 jersey in 1977. He led all American League third basemen 11 times in fielding percentage and eight times in assists. His 2,870 games at third base rank No. 1 on the all-time list.

Frank Robinson, another baseball great, once said that Brooks was the best defensive player at any position. ''I used to stand in the outfield like a fan and watch him make play after play. I used to think, 'Wow! I can't believe this,''' he said.

(Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles)

Frank Robinson also played for the Orioles. His time with the team overlapped with that of Brooks Robinson from 1966 to 1971.

More About Brooks Robinson:

  • As a boy, Robinson operated the scoreboard at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock. The baseball sequence from the 1984 film ''A Soldier's Story'' was filmed there.
  • In 1955, Robinson played baseball in South America; he played in Cuba in 1957.
  • In 2012, a large bronze statue of him was unveiled at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

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