Fans to vote on all-time Gold Glove team
ST. LOUIS -- Brooks Robinson has made just one concession to age. At the Orioles' fantasy camps these days, he plays first base so he doesn't have to bounce any throws across the diamond.
During his playing days, the Human Vacuum Cleaner won 16 consecutive AL Gold Glove awards from 1960-75. His 16 is tied for the most Gold Gloves with pitchers Jim Kaat and Greg Maddux since the Rawlings-sponsored award debuted 50 years ago.
Is Robinson the best third baseman ever? Now fans will decide by voting on the all-time Gold Glove team.
The ballot will be unveiled at Times Square in New York on Tuesday morning. Three members of the original Gold Glove team -- Willie Mays, Frank Malzone and Minnie Minoso -- are scheduled to attend and cast the first votes.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was among the dozens of baseball luminaries, including Sparky Anderson, Dusty Baker, Tommy Lasorda, Bob Costas, and Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell, who chose the 50 players most worthy of consideration as the best at their position.
"Nowadays defense is not as glamorous as walk-off home runs or big strikeouts," La Russa said. "But I think the most consistent way to have a chance to win is to pitch and defend."
Robinson, 70, said it's about time that defense gets the spotlight.
"It's great to see defense get a little bit of attention because too often it gets overlooked," Robinson said. "I negotiated 23 one-year contracts, and not once do I remember the general manager taking note of any of the plays I made or factoring that in at all."
From more than 250 players who have won a Gold Glove, the panel identified 18 outfielders, six players at each infield position, five catchers and three pitchers.
Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, who won 13 Gold Gloves, is on the ballot, along with Yankees star Derek Jeter, who has won three so far. Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench won 10 Gold Gloves; current star Ivan Rodriguez of the Tigers has 12.
Hall of Fame outfielders like Mays and Roberto Clemente, who won 12 Gold Gloves in a 13-year period, will be challenged by active players Ken Griffey Jr., Torii Hunter and Jim Edmonds. Griffey had a clean sweep in the '90s, getting all 10 of his Gold Gloves in that decade.
"There's nothing better than a good baseball debate," Smith said.
Kaat, who won 16 straight Gold Gloves from 1962-77, believes his reputation was enhanced when he returned to the mound three days after getting teeth knocked out by a comebacker and cleanly fielded another hard shot right back at him.
Maddux, who won 13 of his in succession from 1990-2002, joked he keeps them in his "dig-me room" at his home.
"There are a lot of guys that are good fielding pitchers so it's nice to win," Maddux said. "I do work on my fielding. I'll work on it this month and I'll work on it during the season, too."
At third base, Robinson has competition from Mike Schmidt (10) and Scott Rolen, who already has seven.
"I've talked to La Russa and Jim Fregosi, who managed him in Philadelphia, and this guy is the real deal," Robinson said of Rolen. "He can do everything."
One obvious omission is Barry Bonds, who has eight Gold Gloves. But his defense declined precipitously around the time he started his run at the home run record.
Rawlings president and CEO Robert Parish said a 50th anniversary team has been in the works since he joined the company 3½ years ago.
Fans can vote online at www.RawlingsGoldGlove.com, as well as at thousands of sporting goods retailers, by mobile device and text messaging, or by mail through June 19.
The company also will begin awarding Gold Gloves to college, high school and even youth league players this year.
"Defense is a really important aspect of the game," Parish said. "It's time it gets the attention it deserves."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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