Brooks Robinson enjoyed a truly great career, playing twenty-three seasons for the Baltimore Orioles, while flashing so much goddamn leather down at the hot corner that he earned himself the nickname The Human Vacuum Cleaner and sixteen Gold Glove Awards. He was the American League MVP in 1964, the 1966 All Star Game MVP and the World Series MVP in 1970. He’s in the Hall of Fame. He was, in short, a dude. But he also holds one of the least desirable records in baseball history.
On August 6, 1967, Robinson and the O’s were hosting the Chicago White Sox for a doubleheader, with Baltimore taking the first game 5-2. In the second game, the Orioles had jumped out to a 3-0 lead heading into the fifth inning, when they sent Boog Powell to the dish. Powell drew a walk, and was followed by Frank Robinson (no relation), who was hit by a pitch, setting the stage for Brooks to potentially extend his team’s lead. Instead, Brooks ripped a grounder to ChiSox third baseman Ken Boyer, who stepped on the bag and threw to second, where Don Buford tagged second and fired on to first baseman Tommy McCraw, thus completing a triple play. But it wasn’t just any triple play, it was Robinson MLB record fourth career triple play. He’d previously hit into one against the Boston Red Sox on August 18, 1965; the Washington Senators on September 10, 1964; and the Senators on June 2, 1958. That is a staggering number of triple plays for a career, especially when you consider that Robinson was just 30 at the time.
For a sense of how bonkers it is, consider that there is a triple play once every ~490 games and that your average baseball game features ~75 plate appearances; that means there’s a triple play once every ~37,000 plate appearances. Robinson hit into four in his first 6,500 plate appearances.
Not surprisingly, given how good a fielder he was and how long he played, Robinson was also involved in turning three more triple plays during his career, but that is nowhere near the record of 9 shared by Bid McPhee and Donie Bush, two men who played at a time when the triple play was more common.
Reflecting on his incredible career, Robinson once said, "I wouldn't mind seeing someone erase my record of hitting into four triple plays."