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RIP Lou Brock

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Chuckleberry can fuck off, I’ve heard of Brock before. So you know he must’ve been a great one. RIP

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Dude was definitely a success story coming from a family of sharecroppers in Arkansas to the hall of fame.  It is awesome that the Cubs traded him to the Cardinals only have have the Cardinals go on and win the world series that same year.  F the Cubs.

Unfortunately he had a shitty 5 year run to close out life.  He had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2015 and then got diagnosed with multiple myeloma two years later.

RIP to a legend

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Crazy that his career high in stolen bases, 118, when he was 36 years of age.  Nobody that stole over 100 ever did it within several years of that age. 

Was watching a '67 World Series doc about Cards/BoSox.  He absolutely lit the Sox up and was a big reason they took that series in 7 games.  He hits .414, 8 runs scored, only 3K's (he was quite strike out prone for a leadoff man), 7/7 on stolen bases including 3/3 in Game 7 (including a late in the game swipe of third base.  same game 7 he's 2-4 with a double, walk, and run scored.  

Never got to see him play in person, but one of the few Cardinals respected in my Cubs household growing up, along with Bob Gibson.  RIP, Lou. 

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Every time I think of Lou Brock, I think about the angel.

Lou Brock’s life was touched by angels. Nothing came easy. He grew up poor and without a father in the small town of Collinston, La. Some of his most powerful memories were of the bus taking him past the schools where the White kids studied and dropping him off at the one-room schoolhouse where he would spend his childhood. He was vividly aware of what it meant to be Black in America in the 1940s and 1950s.

He worried a lot about never escaping Collinston.

Brock used to say that he discovered baseball after he threw a spitball at a girl in class … and it hit the teacher instead. His punishment was to do a report on some of the great baseball players of the day — Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Don Newcombe and so on. In studying them, he realized that the players got $8 per day in meal money. That sounded like a pretty good deal to him. So he started playing ball.

He was a pretty good ballplayer in high school, but not really good enough to get noticed. Instead, he got an academic scholarship at Southern University to study math. He decided to try out for the baseball team. And that’s where the angel story comes from.

But before we get to that story, we should recount the baseball life. Buck O’Neil signed Brock to play for the Chicago Cubs. Brock struggled his first couple of seasons with the team and the Cubs dealt him to St. Louis for Ernie Broglio, which turned out to be one of the worst trades in baseball history. Buck always said there was a racial reason behind the deal; the Cubs already had stars Ernie Banks and Billy Williams along with several other Black players and were concerned about angering their fans if they became, as they saw it, too Black. So they traded Brock for a 28-year-old White pitcher, who, to be fair, had been pretty good in 1963.

As it turns out, the trade was the greatest thing that could have happened to Brock: He immediately felt gloriously at home with the Cardinals. He hit .348/.387/.527 in 103 games after the trade and was probably the key player for the Cardinals coming back from as many as 11 games back and winning the 1964 pennant.

He then hit .300 with a homer in the World Series as the Cardinals beat the Yankees in seven.

His greatest World Series performances were yet to come.

Brock was not an especially devoted base stealer while with the Cubs, but as soon as he got to the Cardinals, he ran with abandon. Brock had good speed, but it was often noted that others were faster. What Brock had was fearlessness and a genius for studying pitchers. He led the league in stolen bases all but one year from 1966 to 1974 and retired with a record 938 stolen bases. Only the inimitable Rickey Henderson has surpassed him.

He was at his best in the biggest games. He loved the big stages. In the 1967 World Series, he hit .414, stole seven bases and scored eight runs. In the 1968 World Series, he hit .464 with another seven stolen bases and six extra-base hits.

In 1974, he decided before the season even began that he would try and break Maury Wills’ single-season record of 104 stolen bases. It was an audacious — and seemingly foolish — goal. He was 35 years old. He had never stolen even 75 bases in a season. He didn’t steal a single base in the first week of the season.

But then he stole two bases at Pittsburgh. He stole three against the Astros. He stole 17 bases in 19 games in May and stole 18 more in June. The only question was if he would get on base enough times … and he did. He stole four bases on Sept. 1 in San Francisco to get to 98. He stole four in a series against the Mets to get within one of the record. Then against the Phillies, he stole his 104th and 105th bases with Dick Ruthven on the mound.

Cool Papa Bell — the legendary base stealer in the Negro Leagues who helped teach Brock how to steal bases — presented him with the base that broke the record.

“We decided to give him this base,” Cool Papa told the crowd, “because even if we hadn’t, he was going to take it anyway.”

Brock finished his career with more than 3,000 hits, more than 1,600 runs scored and was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

And now for the Lou Brock story I always think about.

When he tried out for the Southern baseball team, he was not a confident player. The only baseball he’d played was in a small town; he had no idea if he was good enough. He remembered being so nervous on tryout day that he could barely stand up. And then, he saw a boy running around on the field. He couldn’t have been older than 12 years old.

And what struck Brock was how joyful that kid was. He just ran around the field like he was the happiest person on earth. He laughed and joked and patted players on the back and jumped around in the sunshine. He played catch with everybody. Just seeing that kid play ball like that brought out Brock’s inner joy. He forgot his nervousness.

“If that little boy has the courage to run on this field with all these college players,” Brock told himself, “So do I.”

And so he left behind all his doubts. He happily ran around the field. He ran around so much that he actually passed out. That caught the coaches’ attention. When he recovered, the coaches told him he had five pitches to show what he could do. He hit four of them out, and his career began.

After it was all over, Brock wanted to thank the boy who had inspired such joy and confidence in him. But the boy didn’t come back to practice.

He asked a couple of teammates, “Hey, what happened to that little boy who came out here to practice with us?”

And they said: “What little boy?”

“You know, the one who was running around here, playing catch with everybody.”

“Lou,” they said, “there was no little boy out here.”

Brock was too embarrassed to tell that story for a long time. But then, one day, he told it to his mentor and friend Buck O’Neil. And Buck didn’t laugh. He didn’t doubt.

Instead, he asked: “You think that boy was an angel? There are angels everywhere.”

Lou Brock smiled. And from that day on, whenever he would see O’Neil, he would say: “Hey Buck, there are angels everywhere.”

 

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I saw him play at Busch many times.  He's in my trio of favorite Cardinals, along with Stan and Ozzie.  Super competitor, and an absolute terror on the bases.

Never got to meet him, sure wish I had.  Need to find my Brockabrella.

brockabrella hashtag on Twitter

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