Brooks Robinson's peers believe his defense wasn't just one of the Orioles' defining characteristics.
His play at third base was the defining characteristic, they say.
Earl Weaver's tantrums and Cal Ripken's streak also became symbols of the franchise, but nothing over the decades ranks ahead of Robinson's defense.
"That's the Baltimore Orioles right there," said George Kell, a Hall of Famer who tutored Robinson in the 1950s.
Robinson smiled recently when he heard Kell's comment.
"I loved playing the field," he said. "It sounds simple, but I enjoyed catching the ball."
He is widely regarded as the best third baseman ever, and though defensive masterwork can be hard to quantify, his 16 Gold Glove awards, won consecutively, make the point. No other player in major league history has won more. (Pitcher Jim Kaat also won 16 straight.)
"Is Brooks the best ever at third? No doubt about it," Kell, 81, said from his Clifton, Ark., home.
Most fans associate Robinson's prowess with the 1970 World Series, when he discouraged the Cincinnati Reds with a series of seemingly impossible plays and was named the series' Most Valuable Player after the Orioles' championship.
"But we kind of laughed at the fuss everyone made," said Dick Hall, an Orioles reliever that year. "We'd seen him make those kinds of plays for years."
Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks still remembers his first "Brooks moment." The team was in Oakland for the 1968 season opener. Hendricks was a rookie catcher, fresh from the Mexican League. Robinson was 30, in his prime.
Early in the game, Oakland's fleet Bert Campaneris pushed a bunt between the mound and third as a runner on first sprinted for second.
"Where I'd come [See Orioles, 3c] [Orioles, from Page 1c] from, that was a hit," Hendricks recalled. "Brooks was on it instantly, and without even looking, threw to second for a force. Then there was a throw to first, double play, inning over in half a second.
"I was sitting in the bullpen and my mouth fell open. I went, 'You've got to be kidding me. I don't believe what I just saw.'"
His veteran bullpen mates just shrugged.
In some respects, Robinson wasn't destined for defensive greatness. His arm wasn't that strong. His body wasn't chiseled. He lacked speed.
But his hands were fast and sure, enabling him to catch balls and get rid of them in a blink.
And his first steps were as quick as an All-Star hockey goalie's.
Orioles at 50