- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson has several memories of the summer of 1969, when the nation’s capital last hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

But some of his recollections have nothing to do with baseball. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969 — that was two days before the All-Star Game was scheduled to be held at RFK Stadium. A rainout forced the game to be played the next day, on July 23, 1969.

“I remember watching that (moon landing) at the hotel,” recalls Robinson, now 81, who played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 to 1977.

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Robinson was a reserve third baseman for the American League in 1969. His team lost 9-3 as Sal Bando of the Oakland A’s started at third for the American League, while Robinson was hitless in one at-bat off the bench.

The American League team had two future managers of the Nationals: Frank Robinson and Davey Johnson, teammates with Brooks Robinson on the Orioles.

The National League was able to dominate the game in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The competition was a little fierce. The American League was getting beat up a lot. They used to have the American League and National League presidents talk to the teams about how important it was to win the game,” Robinson told The Washington Times. “The NL was a little bit better and I think it came from having (top) African-Americans before the AL. They had guys like (Willie) Mays, (Hank) Aaron, Frank Robinson and Ernie Banks. They just had a better club. There were a lot of one-run games.”

The Orioles and Washington Senators played on a regular basis in the 1960s, with Baltimore usually pounding its American League foe to the south.

So playing in the nation’s capital was nothing new for Robinson. “My first Opening Day was 1957 at old Griffith Stadium (in Washington). I played in that. I liked the old stadium. The old stadium had kind of an appeal you don’t have now,” Robinson noted.

Robinson said the Orioles stayed at a hotel near DuPont Circle early in his career. “Later on we just drove back and forth” from Baltimore, he said.

The former third baseman was part of World Series title teams with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970. The tradition of World Series winners visiting the White House didn’t start until under President Ronald Reagan.

But as a Hall of Famer, Robinson made several visits to the White House after his playing career.

One came when fellow Arkansas native Bill Clinton was in the White House. “I went over and presented an All-Star ballot to President Clinton and Al Gore,” recalls Robinson, who was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1937.

The former Baltimore star made the American League All-Star team 18 times and won the Gold Glove at third base 16 times. He was nicknamed “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” and “Mr. Hoover” for his fielding brilliance.

Robinson plans to watch this year’s All-Star Game on television from his home in Owings Mills, Maryland. He said he has not attended an All-Star in person for several years.

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