B. Robinson leaves lasting print

To delight of Orioles fans, Hall of Famer signs lithographs as part of Rockwell exhibit

Baseball

September 17, 2006|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,Sun reporter

Can life imitate art imitating life? Brooks Robinson answered that brainteaser yesterday at the Maryland Science Center.

Robinson, the Orioles' Hall of Fame third baseman, spent three hours autographing lithographs of himself for a steady stream of visitors. The prints - copies of a 1971 Norman Rockwell painting - show a uniformed Robinson giving an autograph to a youngster.

Folks stood in line for more than an hour to meet Robinson, 69, and have him sign their lithographs, which they purchased for $69 apiece. His appearance was part of the touring Rockwell's America Exhibition, which plays Baltimore through January.

"I wasn't going to miss this," said Gail Ziegler of Glenwood. Not coincidentally, her 26-year-old son is named Brooks.

Robinson reckoned he meets "five or six" of his namesakes at most appearances.

An early arrival was Kathy Kaus, 45, of Bel Air who came to share a childhood crush.

"When I was 6, I was in love with you," she told Robinson. "Every time they showed you on TV, I had to run up and kiss the screen - much to the chagrin of my older brother."

Kaus' mother, who stood nearby, remembered it well.

"I'm the one who was constantly cleaning the TV screen," Carol Miller said.

Robinson greeted young and old alike. Tanner Kinney, 7, of Pasadena took home a color print and a baseball cap autographed by No. 5.

"Don't lose that hat," Robinson said. "Wear it and the next time you play, you're going to get two hits instead of one."

For Betsy Storck's father, Robinson wrote, To "Link" on his 90th birthday.

"He'll love this," said Storck, of Dayton, as she left with her treasure. "My dad used to live on 34th Street and remembers Brooks' first game [in 1955]."

After 90 minutes, Robinson had signed more than 150 lithographs. The original, titled "Gee, Thanks Brooks!" hangs in the Rockwell exhibit, on loan from Robinson. He purchased it in 1994 at auction for $200,000, when he outbid a Rockwell enthusiast for the painting.

"It's mine now, and that's the way it should be," he said.

The copies would be cherished as well, buyers said. Bill Lindsay of Dunkirk and his fiancee, Michelle Lee of Davidsonville, plan to enlarge their print and place it at the entrance to their wedding in March at Oriole Park.

Robinson was tickled to hear that.

"Are you getting married at home plate?" he asked.

"No, [the ballclub] won't let us," Lee said.

Robinson frowned.

"If I was the owner, I'd let you," he said.

Have a great life, he wrote on their keepsake.

"I guess we can't convince you to buy the team?" asked Matt McDermott of Remington.

"I'm a couple million short," Robinson said.

Parents who'd seen him play brought children who hadn't. Michael Titus, 10, seemed a ringer for the youngster in the painting. Titus, of Clarksville, met his hero dressed in his Little League uniform with a white "5" on the back.

Robinson signed the print, then called Titus back and signed his jersey as well.

"You've made his day," said Michael's mother, Karen Titus, "and maybe his life."

Valerie Lloyd of White Marsh asked for a special inscription.

"Could you write `From the Human Vacuum Cleaner?'" she asked.

Robinson chuckled. That nickname was given to him by former teammate Lee May.

He signed the drawing as asked - wishing, perhaps, that he'd been given another moniker.

"It took me a year and a half to learn how to spell vacuum," he said. mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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