“In New York, they named a candy bar after Reggie. In Baltimore, they name their children after Brooks.” -writer Gordon Beard.
Two baseball Hall of Famers have birthday’s on May 18th- and I can’t think of two people who are more different. The great Brooks Robinson- ‘The Human Vacuum Cleaner’- turns 84- and Reggie Jackson-“Mr. October’ turns 75.
Brooks Robinson- when you think of Brooks you think first of his defense at third base. Considered by most baseball experts to be the greatest defensive third baseman in the history of the game- the winner of 16 Gold Gloves. Robinson was selected to 18 All-Star Games in his career. While he is known for his glove- he was pretty good with a bat in his hands also- he does share one thing in common with Reggie Jackson- performing well in the post-season. Robinson hit over .300 in 39 post-season games. His career regular season totals 268 home runs, 1357 RBI’s and a career .267 average. Keep in mind that his prime years were spent in a decade dominated by pitching- the 1960’s. The 1964 MVP and the 1970 World Series MVP- when he put on a clinic at third base with spectacular play after spectacular play. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first time on the ballot in 1983.
While Brooks is known first for his glove- Reggie Jackson is known for his big bat. Nicknamed ‘Mr. October’ for his post-season heroics. Brooks big moment was in the 1970 World Series- with Reggie it was hitting three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. Reggie lived for the big stage. While he didn’t always succeed he wanted to be in the spotlight. Reggie striking out was as exciting as most players hitting a home run. Reggie Jackson hit 563 home runs in his career- 1702 RBI’s with a .262 career average. Reggie was selected to 14 All-Star Games and won the American League MVP Award in 1973. He was also the MVP in two World Series- in 1973 with the Oakland A’s and 1977 with the New York Yankees.
Where they really differ is in personality. I have never heard one bad thing said about Brooks Robinson. He is a universally loved man. Over the years I have read numerous accounts of people who had interactions with Brooks- and he has always come off as a great gentleman. The quote at the top says it all- in New York they named a candy bar after Reggie- in Baltimore they thought so much of Brooks they named their children after him. You won’t find all that praise for Reggie. He has been described as arrogant, self-centered, egotistical- and those are the nice comments. He seems to be a man capable of great charm when he wants to be- and also one of the biggest jerks in the world. I once talked to a reporter who covered the Yankees and he told me that Reggie was a guy who sucked up to the big guys who could help him – like a Howard Cosell -but would regularly embarrass the guy who he felt could do him no good. These kind of comments are sprinkled all over when you read about Reggie. But Reggie was without question a great and exciting ballplayer to watch. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame also on the first ballot in 1993.
A note on Reggie- in the early 1970’s Reggie grew a mustache. Believe it or not he was the first player with facial hair since the 1930’s- of course he became the first of many- the 1970’s Oakland A’s became known for their mustaches. Their owner paid them a bonus to grow one. If you watch baseball in 2021 one thing you will notice is how it seems every player has a mustache or a beard. It’s interesting how times change.