"All my friends are hurt and dying"
Brooks Robinson and I go back to 1966. My first start in the big leagues was against the Orioles at Memorial Stadium, their season opener. I won the game 3-2 and got a complete game. That was the only game the Orioles would lose that month as they marched to become World Series Champs that year.
Within two weeks the Orioles returned the favor, beating me in New York. After the loss, I went to a pub where ballplayers hung out and met Brooks Robinson personally for the first time. What a gentleman! He actually told me that I was going to be around the big leagues for a long time. Coming from him that gave me a big boost, since I had only been with the Yankees for less than a month at that time, just feeling my way into the big leagues.
|Fritz Peterson (2nd from left) next to his friend Brooks Robinson in 1970 receiving the BBWAA Good Guy Award|
When I first saw Brooks, he looked very weak and frail. He has been dealing with several health issues for two or three years now and it looks like they were taking a toll on him. I sat a few feet away from him and had a little time to joke around about signing autographs with our, “off hands.” He was a righty Hall of Famer that signed autographs left handed and I was a lefty that signed right handed. After the signings, we all went down for some food before we were all introduced to all the fans that were in attendance at the auction.
There was a large dais set up on the stage with three levels of chairs for us to sit on. Brooks was on the third level while I was in front of him on the second level of chairs. After the introduction of all of us by the announcer, we were all to go down to the main floor to mingle with the guests while they looked over the various items up for sale. When we began standing up, Brooks’ chair slipped off the back edge of the platform and he tumbled off the third level backward and then once more as he tumbled off the dais onto the main level in the auditorium which unfortunately had a hard surface. When we realized someone had tumbled off thru the curtains behind us and onto the hard surface below, pandemonium broke loose with players jumping off the stage trying to get to Brooks, half yelling for someone to get a doctor. He was badly hurt. Since it was a fundraiser for a hospital, the audience was full of doctors who just took seconds to get to him. It was sickening, but even worse when we found out it was Brooks, the nicest but most frail player among us that night.
During the panic that ensued, I was looking at Brooks, that sweet, wonderful man lying on the floor all sprawled out with his grey hair all disheveled. I just wanted first to throw up and then, more importantly just to go down and hug him and fix him. I wish I could have taken the fall for him. I have more “meat,” on me, and as of last week I found out that the cancer cells I had had for years were now “undetectable,” the day before Brooks’ fall.
Seeing my buddy on the floor made me cry.
While we were in the signing room I was also updated about Gary Carter, another beautiful man who is being eaten up by brain cancer, similar to other friends in baseball, Bobby Murcer and Dick Howser. That brought me to thoughts of two other baseball friends who died of heart attacks over the past few years, Johnny Blanchard and Tom Tresh.
It saddens me to no end about these guys, and there will be others, but I feel blessed to have known them and because as of this moment, I have a new lease on life. I intend on paying more attention to my friends and thanking God for every moment, especially for the little things.
I love you Brooksie! (He calls me Fritzie). What a beautiful man!
Brooks Robinson is a Hall of Fame 3rd Baseman. Fritz Peterson ended up with the lowest career E.R.A. of any pitcher in the history of Old Yankee Stadium 1923-2008.
- Fritz Peterson