It’s been a rough year for former star baseball players. So far in 2020, we’ve lost Hall of Fame players Al Kaline and Tom Seaver. We also had to say good-bye to Don Larsen, the only pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter (his was a perfect game) in the World Series.
Now, we’ve had to say good-bye to another legend. Hall of Famer Lou Brock died Sept. 6 in St. Louis at the age of 81. He had been dealing with a variety of health issues for some time.
Brock was one of those players who was fun to watch. His statistics tell only part of the story. Born in Arkansas, he played college ball at Southern University. He was named to the American baseball team for the 1959 Pan American Games. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs and made his Major League debut in 1961.
By the time he retired at the end of the 1979 season, he had appeared in 2,616 games and had 3,023 hits for a career batting average of .293. He had 149 home runs and 900 RBI. He was best known for his stolen bases, with 938 in his career. He was a six-time All-Star and he batted over .300 eight times in his career.
He batted .391 in three World Series, and his 13 hits in the 1968 Series against Detroit tied a record set by Bobby Richardson in 1964.
Following his retirement, he served as a batting and base-running instructor for several MLB organizations. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, his first year of eligibility.
It was his stealing bases that made Brock so much fun to watch. The real joy of watching him came after he got on base. You never knew when he was going, but he did. A good base-stealer isn’t just fast. He also has to be very smart. He has to learn to “read” his opponents so he knows when it’s a good time to go.
Brock is also remembered as part of one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history. On June 15, 1964, Brock, along with Jack Spring and Paul Toth, was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens.
At first, it looked like a steal for the Cubs. Broglio had been 18-8 in 1963 with the Cards. At the time of the trade, Brock was batting just .251.
Chicago Daily News sportswriter Bob Smith thanked the Cardinals for sending them Broglio, and added it was a pleasure doing business with them.
Two Cardinals’ players at the time, catcher Tim McCarver and first baseman Mike Shannon, both said the team wanted to run St. Louis General Manager Bing Devine out of town.
The deal turned out to be a steal for the Cardinals. Brock would bat .348 and steal 33 bases as he led the Cards to their first World Series championship since 1946. He would go on to lead them to another World Series win in 1967 and a pennant in 1968.
Broglio was dealing with injuries and went just 4-7, 4.04 with the Cubs in 1964. By 1966, he was out of baseball.
By some accounts, it was the different ways the Cubs’ and Cardinals’ organizations were run that made the difference in turning Brock into a superstar.
Some things you may not know about Brock: he was one of only three players to hit a home run into the centerfield bleachers at the Polo Grounds in New York, which he did in 1962. The bleachers were almost 450 feet from home plate. The only other players to perform this feat were Henry Aaron and Joe Adcock.
Then again, given that Brock was batting against the New York Mets in the year they went 40-120, maybe that feat isn’t that surprising.
Did you know that Brock was a Christian pastor? He and his wife, Jackie, were ordained ministers at Abundant Life Fellowship Church in St. Louis.
One thing that is often mentioned about Brock was his ability to pull people together and inspire them to accomplish great things. He understood, and he made others understand, the importance of pulling together to achieve goals. He inspired everyone around him to be their best and always try to improve.
So long, Lou. You’ll be missed. Say hello to Stan Musial and Dizzy Dean for me.