Wilson (The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych, 2013) delivers a pedestrian treatment of an impressive baseball player and admirable man.
Brooks Robinson is, by all accounts, a wonderful, kind man. During his Hall of Fame baseball career as a third baseman with the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 to 1977, he was universally loved as a teammate and respected as an opponent. Growing up in Arkansas, he was raised in a close family, and he eventually had a close family of his own. Throughout his entire career, he was never the source of controversy; in fact, he seemed almost too good to be true. On the field, the third baseman was one of the greatest fielders in the history of major league baseball, a status already earned but cemented by his performance in the 1970 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, when he put on one of the most scintillating performances in the history of the game. At bat, Robinson accumulated respectable and intermittently impressive numbers (.267 career batting average and more than 2,800 hits), though without his glove, he almost certainly would have been a borderline candidate for enshrinement in Cooperstown. Baseball fans of a certain age will welcome Wilson’s biography of the Baltimore Orioles' star. However, the best sports biographies transcend the games the athletes play in order to reveal something significant about the man or the time in which he lived. Whether through the limitations of the biographer or his subject, this one does not. Since Robinson embodied the ideal of the mid-20th-century All-American athlete, the book often reads like a hagiographic Frank Merriwell tale come to life, including plenty of clichés and aw-shucks language.
Nice guys do not always finish last, but they also do not necessarily make the most compelling subjects for biography.