- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The Baltimore Orioles, a franchise with an ugly present and a hopeless future, reached back to their past last night at Camden Yards to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-games record.

What happened on Sept. 6, 1995, at Camden Yards was very real — Ripken helped pull the game out of its strike hangover — and worth revisiting 10 years later, for many reasons.

The past, though, is all the Orioles have.

What happens when the past wants nothing to do with them?

The club had planned a second commemorative celebration for Sept. 17 to mark another big moment in franchise history: the day Brooks Robinson, another franchise icon, made his major league debut 50 years ago.

But Robinson declined, and the invitation and rejection were passed back and forth through a third party.

“The Orioles asked me — through someone else — about doing something about my 50th anniversary, and I declined to do it,” Robinson said. “I just told them I didn’t want to do it. … I don’t need it.”

Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said the club was told Robinson had a business commitment on the West Coast at the same time. “We will still commemorate the day, though,” Stetka said.

Robinson is considered to be among the game’s greatest third basemen. He spent his entire 23-year career (268 home runs, 16 consecutive Gold Gloves, 1964 AL MVP, 1970 World Series MVP) with the franchise and often was referred to as “Mr. Oriole.”

But this man, every bit as important to the Orioles as the man who was honored last night, doesn’t feel connected to the organization any longer.

“I really don’t have a relationship with them,” Robinson said. “I do the Orioles fantasy camp. I have had some meetings with Peter Angelos and his son, but nothing ever really materialized. That was it. That is kind of the way it is.

“I am on good terms with them. I am doing other things. They are doing other things, and that is really our relationship. I watch the games, I go to a few games, but that is about it.”

These days Robinson spends his time working as president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Two years ago, he joined Maryland minor league baseball entrepreneur Peter Kirk in a company called Sports Management Services to help promote and establish an Atlantic League independent minor league team in Lancaster, Pa. They are working on putting another team in nearby York.

They also are in the early stages of plans to put a minor league franchise in Charles County, Md., — a franchise that someday could be a Nationals affiliate, though it is planned as another independent club.

“It would be great to have a farm team there for Washington, if that is possible,” Robinson said.

Robinson is very familiar with the Nationals. He has paid attention to the team’s success and rooted for his old Orioles teammate, manager Frank Robinson.

“I don’t think anyone expected them to play like they had been playing,” he said.

Robinson, 68, still lives in Owings Mills, Md., and would like to make it to a Nationals game.

“I would love to come over and say hello to Frank,” he said. “I was up in Montreal last year and did a game with the Atlanta Braves. They were using guest commentators, so I saw him in Montreal. I will make it over to a game before the season is over.”

Frank Robinson said he would welcome his old teammate and would bring him into the clubhouse to talk to the players.

“I would love to see him come to a Nationals game, to the point where I would pay to get him in the park if I had to,” Frank said. “I would love for him to come into the clubhouse and, if he wanted to, talk to the players and be around these guys. I am a little surprised and maybe a little disappointed that he hasn’t come yet.”

There are 14 home games left, still enough chances for that to happen — and still enough time to note an important moment in baseball 50 years ago, when third base took on a permanent identity: Brooks Robinson.

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