Monday, September 7, 2020


As church was ending Sunday night, Jonathan let me know that he had gotten an alert that Lou Brock had died at the age of 81. He had been in bad health, but this was still a shocker to me.

The first year I really got into baseball was 1974 when I was 12. I rooted for the St Louis Cardinals of course. Lou Brock was the left fielder for that team. He began to steal bases that season at an astounding rate. The record for stolen bases in a season was 104 by Maury Wills. Lou Brock was stealing bases at a rate that would beat that record. The Cardinals were in a tight division race all year with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Lou Brock’s great year helped keep them in the race. I remember listening on the radio when Lou Brock broke the record. He would ultimately steal 118 bases. The Cardinals ultimately lost the division in a large part to the Cubs blowing a game to Pittsburgh (on a dropped third strike in the bottom of the 9th that allowed the Pirates to tie and ultimately win the division clinching game). Lou Brock finished second in the MVP race to Steve Garvey of the Dodgers. I felt the only reason that happened was Garvey’s team won the pennant that year (and were easily beaten by the A’s in the World Series that year). 

Lou Brock was my first favorite baseball player. His base stealing that year captivated me. We even tried to incorporate stolen bases that year in our pick up baseball games. We didn’t have catchers so we had to make our own rules as to what a stolen base was. The pitcher had to throw over to a base you were leading off from in order for you to try and steal a base. If you took an extra base on a hit (say going first to third on a single) that counted. I remember Joe Ford and I both stole 59 bases that year. We didn’t keep up with stolen bases again in any future year.

I read with interest of the infamous trade (Brock for Broglio) that brought Lou Brock to the Cardinals in 1964 and spurred them to a pennant and finally a World Series win over the Yankees. Lou Brock was at his best in the World Series. He hit .391 in three Series (a record for anyone playing over 20 games). His 14 stolen bases in the World Series is a record. I remember him breaking TY Cobb’s career stolen base record (with 893) in 1977. I was working at the Paducah Drive In in 1979 when I heard Lou Brock (on the radio) literally knock Dennis Lamp of the Cubs out of the game by lining his 3000th hit off of the pitcher’s hand. Brock won the National League Comeback Player of the Year that year as well rebounding from hitting .221 the year before to hit .304. He retired after that year.

Lou Brock revolutionized base stealing. He bought a movie camera and would take films of pitchers to pick up particular movements that made on the mound to give him a better idea of their pickoff moves and when they were going to pitch so he could get a better jump. He revolutionized the pop-up slide. Using that slide, he could immediately be in a position to advance should a throw be bad. He led the National League in steals every year but one from 1966 to 1974. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. Base stealing has fallen off severely in the last decade or so. The MLB leader in steals last year stole only 46. 

Lou Brock was a successful man outside of baseball as well. He was also a very articulate man. Donna and I went to see him and Red Schoendienst a few years ago at Busch Stadium. He told many wonderful stories of his days in baseball with the Cardinals. I still have my autographed baseball that has both his and Red’s signatures on it. He came back to Busch Stadium often and was always greeted with an enthusiastic “Lou-u-u-u-u!” from the crowd.
It made me sad to hear someone who was a big part of my life pass away. It also makes my realize my own mortality when my favorite players of my youth pass away. Thanks for the memories Lou…