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Brock, Lou

Lou Brock

1939-

American baseball player

During the 1970s, Lou Brock did for base-stealing what slugger Mark McGwire did for the homerun in the 1990s: Brock turned the pursuit of the stolen base into a national pastime. In the history of baseball, few players have covered the 90 feet between the bases more productively. During his 19-year career, Brock stole 938 bases, making him the most prolific base-stealer in the history of baseball to that time. Most notable was his 1974 season, when Brock stole 118 bases, setting a new single-season base-stealing record. Though Brock's name is most often associated with stealing bases, he was also a formidable hitter, with 3,023 hits. Brock was the 14th player in baseball history to pass the coveted 3,000 mark. As Cardinal pitcher John Curtis once told Baseball Digest, "He's the greatest single offensive force I've seen." Throughout his life, Brock has been a force off the field as well. He has spent much of his time raising funds for his scholarship foundation, so he can offer young adults a chance at a college education. Brock knows if no one had taken a chance on him, he wouldn't have had the career he did.

Reared in Small Southern Town

Brock was born on June 18, 1939, in El Dorado, Arkansas, to Maud and Paralee Brock. He was raised in nearby Collinston, Louisiana. His family relocated there after his father, Maud, left when he was two. Brock described

his hometown in an issue of Sports Illustrated, "It was a farm community, in the heart of what you might call the Bible Belt. Playing baseball on Sunday was considered taboo. Our house was typical of down there-a four-bedroom shack with a porch and a swing."

After Brock's parents split up, his mother remarried. She married three times and had nine children. To help support her large family, Paralee Brock did domestic work. The family also farmed, raising everything from cotton and corn, to cows and pigs.

As a youngster, Brock wasn't much interested in baseball. It was actually a bit of childhood mischief that got Brock involved in the game. One day in school, the rebellious Brock let loose a spit wad aimed at the girl in front of him. Brock missed his target and ended up hitting the teacher. As a punishment, the teacher sent Brock to the library. Once there, he was asked to research some sports figures like Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson and compose a report for the class. The teacher wanted to make Brock and his classmates more aware of what was happening in the world outside of Collinston. When Brock presented the report, his classmates sneered at him and called him the teacher's pet. Presenting the report was difficult for the shy youngster, but in the end, it changed his life.

As Brock told Sports Illustrated, "The most intriguing thing to me was that big league players got $8 a day for meal money. All I could think of was of how much penny candy that would buy." From then on, Brock was hooked on baseball.

By his freshman year at Union High School in Mer Rouge, Louisiana, Brock was playing baseball. His senior year, he batted over .500. He graduated in 1957, third in his class of 105.

Slugged Way onto College Baseball Team

Following high school, Brock decided he needed a college education in order to leave behind the sharecropper's life. The family didn't have a phone, which prevented Brock from calling any colleges, so he took matters into his own hands and caught a ride to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, because he had heard that the college offered a work-study scholarship program.

School officials were so impressed by Brock's determination that they found a job for him mowing grass and offered him a work-study scholarship. The deal, however, stipulated that Brock maintain a B average. Brock ended his first semester with a C+ average and was booted from the work-study program.

Not wanting to return home a failure, Brock decided to try out for the baseball team. For days, he parked himself in the bleachers and watched the Southern University team practice. "I sat there scared to death," Brock recalled to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The players paraded in front of me with muscles. They looked like athletes. I wasn't sure I belonged on the field with them."

Finally, Brock joined the players on the diamond and spent several days chasing fly balls, running as fast as he could, hoping the coach would notice him. Because Brock was broke at this time, he couldn't afford to eat properly and collapsed on the field one day.

Passing out got Brock noticed, and in the spirit of goodwill, the coach decided to let him bat a few balls. Brock realized he had just a few minutesjust a few pitchesto prove himself. "I told myself, 'This is it. This is the moment,'" he recalled to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "'Either you hit this ball and stay or miss it and be gone.'" Brock impressed the coach by hitting several pitches out of the park. He was offered an athletic scholarship and was able to continue his college education.

During Brock's sophomore season, he received the attention of some scouts when they came to observe Wiley College pitcher Johnny Berry. Brock's team was playing Wiley's team at the time. During the game, Berry gave up only two hits-both homers to Brock.

That same season, Brock hit .545. With Brock in the lineup, Southern College become the first black college to win the baseball championship of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes.

In 1959, Brock was selected to play on the U.S. baseball team at the Pan-American Games in Chicago. During the games, Brock befriended a runner named Charles Deacon Jones, who helped Brock improve his speed by offering a few lessons in technique. A few years later, after Brock joined the Cubs, the two worked out together in Chicago as Jones continued helping Brock improve his form.

Chronology

1939 Born June 18 in El Dorado, Arkansas
1957 Graduates from Union High School, Mer Rouge, Louisiana
1957 Enters college at Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
1958 Becomes member of Southern University baseball team
1959 Represents the United States at the Pan-American Games in Chicago
1961 Signs with the Chicago Cubs, spends one season in the minor leagues
1961 Makes major league debut as a Chicago Cub
1964 Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals
1964 Plays in first World Series, comes away a champion
1967 Smacks 206 hits and 21 home runs to help his team become the divisional champs; advances to World Series and helps team win
1974 Divorces his wife
1974 Sets single-season stolen bases record at 118
1979 Connects for his 3,000th hit
1979 Retires from baseball
1994 Becomes base-running and outfield instructor for St. Louis Cardinals
1995 Marries for third time, this time to Jacqueline Brock

Awards and Accomplishments

1964, 1967 Won World Series ring as member of the St. Louis Cardinals
1966 Led league with most stolen bases (74)
1967 Led league with most at-bats (689), most runs (113) and most stolen bases (52)
1967, 1971-72, 1974-75, 1979 Selected for All-Star Game
1968 Led league with most doubles (46), most triples (14) and most stolen bases (62)
1969 Led league with most stolen bases (53)
1971 Led league with most runs (126) and most stolen bases (64)
1972 Led league with most stolen bases (63)
1973 Led league with most stolen bases (70)
1974 Set major league record for most steals in a season (118)
1974 Named The Sporting News' Player of the Year
1975 Earned the Jackie Robinson Award
1975 Earned the Roberto Clemente Award
1977 Broke Ty Cobb's career stolen bases record of 892
1979 Became 14th player in baseball to achieve more than 3,000 hits
1979 Earned the Hutch Award, which honors former Cincinnati Reds manager Fred Hutchinson
1979 Retired with career record of 938 stolen bases, a record at the time
1985 Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame
2002 Earned the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Award

Got Dismal Start with the Cubs

Before he could complete his senior year of college in 1961, Brock signed with the Chicago Cubs and left school. His signing bonus was $30,000. Though Brock

was sorry to leave school, the chance to help his family financially was appealing. Brock spent one brief season in the minor leagues, playing for the Cubs' farm team in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he batted .361 and stole 38 bases. He also led the team in hits and was soon called up to the majors, where he appeared in four games in 1961.

Unfortunately, Brock's time with the Cubs proved dismal. Aspiring to be a power-hitter, Brock struck out often. He whiffed 96 times in 434 at-bats in 1962 and 122 times in 547 at-bats in 1963. His batting average wasn't that impressive either. He hit .263 in 1962, his first full season in the majors.

Besides his mediocre performance at the plate, Brock took a lot of flack for his fielding. With every game at the gusty Wrigley Field played in the afternoon, Brock had trouble tracking the ball in sunny right field. Brock had only spent one season in the minors and had not learned how to cope with the sun. He made a spectacle of himself as he dropped balls; even when he caught them, his struggle was evident. The coaches never realized that Brock played better at night and on the road.

Cubs fansand local sportswriters in particularpoked fun at Brock. Bob Smith of the Daily News was brutal in his characterizations of Brock. According to David Halberstam's book October 1964, Smith wrote in 1963, "If you have watched all the Cub home games thus far you probably had come to the conclusion that Lou Brock is the worst outfielder in baseball history. He really isn't, but he hasn't done much to prove it."

By 1964, Brock's rage to succeed was getting the better of him. Cub roommate Ernie Banks recalled that Brock had trouble eating and sleeping. Banks told Brock he needed to loosen up and let his natural ability pull him through. Brock, however, was too antsy to relax. He scribbled reports after every game he played in, making notes about the pitchers he faced, what kind of pitches they threw at him, and how well he had responded. Before games, Brock plotted how many hits he thought he should deliver and how many runs he should smack in. According to Halberstam's book, Brock told teammates over and over, "I've got to make it here. I just can't go back to Louisiana and Arkansas. I've been there, and I know what's there."

By June 1964, the Cubs were ready to drop Brock. At the time, Brock was hitting .251 and showed no signs of promise. Since the Cubs rarely gave him the green light to steal, no one knew about Brock's hidden talent for stolen bases.

Came Alive with the Cardinals

In mid-June 1964, the Cubs dealt Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Ernie Broglio, who'd won 18 games the prior season, and two other players. In exchange, the Cardinals got Brock and two pitchers.

"None of us liked the deal," Cardinals first baseman Bill White recalled to Peter Golenbock in his book, The Spirit of St. Louis. "[We'd] say we did, but we didn't like that deal. In my opinion, Lou had a lot of talent, but he didn't know anything about baseball. But somehow, when he came to us, he turned everything around."

The Chicago papers proclaimed the trade a steal for the Cubs, believing they had traded an iffy outfielder for a strikeout king. Sportswriter Bob Smith, who'd been so critical of Brock, wrote, "Thank you, thank you, oh, you lovely St. Louis Cardinals," according to Halberstam's book. In the end, however, the Cardinals were the ones thanking the Cubs for the deal as Brock went down in Hall of Fame history. (Broglio, incidentally, injured his arm after the trade and won only seven more games, while losing 19. By 1967, he had retired.)

The day following the trade, Brock took a plane from Chicago to Houston to join the Cardinals, who were playing that day. Late in the game against the Astros, Brock entered as a pinch-hitter and struck out. According to The St. Louis Cardinals Encyclopedia, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, who had brokered the deal, took some heckling from a fan, who asked him, "Who could have made that deal?"

But for Brock, the trade was rejuvenating. He thrived as a Cardinal. He left behind the sun-drenched right side of Wrigley Field and took up left field. Coaches gave Brock the go-ahead to steal. Soon, fans caught a glimpse of his potential.

For the remainder of the 1964 season, Brock batted.348 and stole 33 bases. He also provided the spark that helped the team win the National League pennant and defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

In 1967, Brock had 206 hits, 21 home runs, and stole 52 bases, helping the Cardinals become the National League champs. They faced the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. In seven games, Brock had 12 hits, scored eight runs, and stole seven bases. His series batting average of .414 led the Cardinals to victory.

Brock continued his offensive onslaught in 1968, leading the National League in doubles with 46, triples with 14, and stolen bases with 62. Once again, the Cardinals landed in the World Series. Brock batted .464 during the series, though the Detroit Tigers defeated the Cardinals to win the title.

Over the next few years, Brock kept stealing, leading the league in stolen bases in 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1974. In 12 consecutive seasons (1965-1976) he stole more than 50 bases.

Turned Base-Stealing into an Art

By 1970, Brock was known for his basepathg escapades. In the decades before Brock joined the major leagues, the stolen base had become a lost art as players concentrated more on swinging for power. The decline in the stolen base was notable. In 1930, there were 1,079 stolen bases in the league. By 1950, that number had dwindled to 650. Most people assumed Ty Cobb 's 1915 record of 96 stolen bases in a single season was untouchable.

Then came Brock, who elevated base-stealing to an art. He scrutinized pitchers, hoping to learn their cadence and rhythm. He wanted to be able to recognize the split-second the pitcher had committed himself to throw home. Brock also studied a pitcher's habits, hoping to find a pattern so he would know when a curve was coming. Since curves take a second of a fraction longer to reach home plate, Brock preferred to run on a curveball.

Brock didn't just watch pitchers, he filmed them on an eight-millimeter camera. At home, he studied the films, watching for signs, twitches, anything that might help him read a pitcher better.

A former math major in college, Brock calculated that there were 3.5 seconds between the time the ball left the pitcher's hand, landed in the catcher's mitt, and ended up back at second base. Brock outlined his base-stealing strategy in a 1974 Newsweek article.

"I can't run from first to second in 3.5 seconds," he admitted. "I don't think I could when I was younger, and I'm slower now. So the key is that instant when the shift of the pitcher's anatomy tells me he can't come to first. He has to go to the plate. I go on that shift. That extra instant is all I need to make it safely."

Brock also got some help from teammates along the way. Batters who followed Brock often stood deep in the batter's box, forcing the catcher back farther.

Brock's base-stealing tactics turned him into an offensive machine. In effect, any single Brock hit could be turned into a double through his base-stealing prowess. Once on second, Brock could score easily if the ball was hit into the outfield.

Career Statistics

Yr Team AVG GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB E
CHI: Chicago Cubs; STL: St. Louis Cardinals.
Post-season play: Appeared in 21 games in three World Series-1964, 1967, 1968. World Series statistics include a .391 batting average, 34 hits and 14 stolen bases.
1961 CHI .091 4 11 1 1 0 0 1 3 0 2
1962 CHI .263 123 434 73 114 9 35 35 96 16 9
1963 CHI .258 148 547 79 141 9 37 31 122 24 8
1964 CHI .251 52 215 30 54 2 14 13 40 10 4
1964 STL .348 103 419 81 146 12 44 27 87 33 10
1965 STL .288 155 631 107 182 16 69 45 116 63 12
1966 STL .285 156 643 94 183 15 46 31 134 74 19
1967 STL .299 159 689 113 206 21 76 24 109 52 13
1968 STL .279 159 660 92 184 6 51 46 124 62 14
1969 STL .298 157 655 97 195 12 47 50 115 53 14
1970 STL .304 155 664 114 202 13 57 60 99 51 10
1971 STL .312 157 640 126 200 7 61 76 107 64 14
1972 STL .311 153 621 81 193 3 42 47 93 63 13
1973 STL .297 160 650 110 193 7 63 71 112 70 12
1974 STL .306 153 635 105 194 3 48 61 88 118 10
1975 STL .309 136 528 78 163 3 47 38 64 56 9
1976 STL .301 133 498 73 150 4 67 35 75 56 4
1977 STL .272 141 489 69 133 2 46 30 74 35 9
1978 STL .221 92 298 31 66 0 12 17 29 17 3
1979 STL .304 120 405 56 123 5 38 23 43 21 7
TOTAL .293 2616 10332 1610 3023 149 900 761 1730 938 196

For Brock, baseball became all about stealing bases. In an issue of Time, Brock expressed his thoughts this way: "Stealing is the most dramatic moment of the game. The pitcher knows you're going, the crowd knows you're going, you know you're going. When you succeed it's a great feeling. Nothing upsets the other team as much as a stolen base."

As Brock perfected his stealing strategies, he also perfected his slide. Brock preferred a straight, "pop-up" slide, instead of the traditional hook slide, which starts 15 feet out from the base and wears the body. Brock's signature pop-up slide allowed him to accelerate full-speed into the bag. Because he ended his slides by pop-ping up, if there was an error in the throw, he could take third as well.

Before Brock came along, there was a player named Maury Wills who helped rejuvenate the stolen base. In 1962, Wills stole 104 bases, breaking Ty Cobb's record. No one imagined it could be topped again. But that was before Brock. In 1974, Brock broke Wills' stranglehold on the single-season steal mark of 104 by grabbing 118 stolen bases. That same season, he also scored 105 runs and batted .306.

Three years later, Brock broke Ty Cobb's career stolen-base record. It happened on August 29, 1977, when Brock entered the game one shy of Cobb's record of 892. As a leadoff batter, the eager Brock drew a walk and trotted to first. The Padres were nervous to have Brock on base and the pitcher, Dave Freisleben, stared at Brock, then briefly walked off the mound. On the next pitch, Brock took off and safely made it to second. He was now tied with Cobb.

In the seventh inning, Brock was on base once again with a chance to steal. Though the Cardinals were playing in San Diego, the fans were rooting for Brock. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, they chanted, "Lou Lou Lou. Go! Go!" Freisleben was still on the mound. He threw to first, trying to get Brock to stick close to the bag.

Freisleben finally threw home, and Brock took off. Handily, he stole No. 893, setting a new major league baseball record. The game came to a halt as the crowd rose for a standing ovation. The base was dug up and ceremoniously presented to Brock. It was a historic moment, and even Freisleben, who'd given away the stolen base, remarked, "I kind of got goosebumps," according to the Post-Dispatch.

It is also interesting to note that Brock's stealing pace was much quicker than Cobb's. Cobb spread his 892 stolen bases out over 24 seasons and 3,033 games. Brock, however, broke the record in only 2,376 games over 17 seasons. Brock also picked up the pace as he got older and was 38 years old when he broke Cobb's record. The record stood until 1997, when Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's ended the season with 1,231.

Brock's feat, however, was soon forgotten after he fell into a slump during the 1978 season, hitting only .221.

Joined Elite "3,000 Hits" Club

At the start of the 1979 season, Brock announced that it would be his last. Fans may have thought him washed up, but Brock had unfinished business. There was still one record Brock was chasing-he wanted to get 3,000 hits so he could be remembered as a hitter and not just a base-stealer.

Brock's goal worried teammates. The St. Louis Cardinals Encyclopedia quoted teammate Ken Boyer as saying: "I want very much to see Lou get 3000 hits, but I can't lose ball games or my job if he can't deliver."

Brock had spent the off-season building up the muscles in his legs and watching tapes of himself at bat. He was ready to make his mark in 1979. That season, Brock smacked 123 hits for a .304 batting average. He ended the season with 3,023 career hits, making him the 14th player to reach the hallowed 3,000th mark. It took 20 years before another National League player, Tony Gwynn , did it in 2000.

Along the way, Brock married three times. He divorced his high school sweetheart, Katie, in 1974. The couple had two children, Wanda, and Lou Brock, Jr., who played football for the San Diego Chargers. Brock later married and divorced Virgie Brock. In 1995, he married Jacqueline Brock, a special education teacher from the St. Louis area.

Where Is He Now?

After the renowned base stealer retired from baseball in 1979, Brock remained close to the Cardinals organization and in 1994 began working as a base-running and outfield instructor for the team, particularly helping out during spring training.

When he's not busy with baseball, Brock tends to the company he founded, Brockworld Products, Inc. Brock is president of the St. Louis-based company, which is a marketing and promotional ventures firm. He is also involved with raising funds for the Lou Brock Scholarship Foundation, which helps students who can't afford college.

Brock and his wife, the Rev. Jacqueline Brock, live in St. Charles, Missouri, and are involved with area charitable and civic efforts, mostly those aimed at helping youth. They also serve as elders to the Abundant Life Fellowship Church near Black Jack, Missouri.

Still King in St. Louis

When Brock retired after the 1979 season, the August Busch family, which owned the St. Louis Cardinals, gave Brock a pleasure boat named "King Louie of St. Louie." Today, Brock still rules his hometown, just as he ruled the basepaths and the record books during his baseball career. Though more than 20 years have passed since Brock retired, he remains a local legend and still works as an instructor for the Cardinals organization. He also lends his name and efforts to many local charities and was added to the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1994. When Brock appears at Busch Stadium at Cardinals games, the crowd still chants, "Lou Lou Lou," in honor of the man who taught a whole citya whole nation in facthow to be a winner.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY BROCK:

(With Fran Schulze) Stealing Is My Game. Prentice Hall Press, 1976.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Broeg, Bob and Jerry Vickery. The St. Louis Cardinals Encyclopedia. Chicago: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group, 1998.

The Cardinals. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1983.

Golenbock, Peter. The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns. New York: Avon Books, Inc., 2000.

Halberstam, David. October 1964. New York: Villard Books, 1994.

Honig, Donald. The St. Louis Cardinals: An Illustrated History. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991.

Kuenster, John, ed. From Cobb to "Catfish." New York: Rand McNally & Co., 1975.

Periodicals

"At Age 60, Lou Brock is Ambassador for Baseball." The Virginian Pilot (February 5, 2000): C1.

Bonventre, Peter. "Grand Larceny." Newsweek (September 12, 1977): 78-79.

Dorr, Dave. "Southern U. Took a Chance On Lou Brock in 1957." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (February 8, 1999): E3.

Dorr, Dave. "The Base Burglar Gives Something Back." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (February 8, 1999): E1.

Eisenbath, Mike. "Brock Keeps on Smiling." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (June 13, 1999): D4.

Harris, Mikal J. "King's Legacy Is Living Without Fear, Brock Proclaims." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (January 23, 2002).

Kaegel, Dick. "Brock Steals Base No. 893." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (August 30, 1977): 1.

Kaplan, Jim. "Brock Still Has the Old Sock." Sports Illustrated (May 21, 1979): 50.

Kelley, Robert. "The Premier Pilferer." Time (July 15, 1974): 84.

"Lou Brock Wins Baseball's Coveted 1979 Hutch Award." Jet (January 10, 1980: 47.

"Make Way for the Sultan of Swipes." Sports Illustrated (August 22, 1977): 24-30.

"The Thief." Newsweek (September 16, 1974): 61.

Other

"Lou Brock Statistics." Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/b/brocklo01.shtml (October 8, 2002).

"Louis C. Brock." Horatio Alger Association. http://www.horatioalger.com/member/bro02.htm (October 6, 2002).

Sketch by Lisa Frick

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Brock, Lou 1939–

Lou Brock 1939

Professional baseball player

Brains Before Baseball

Climbed to the Big Leagues

Consistent Excellence

Sources

In 1964, a promising young outfielder named Lou Brock was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ernie Broglio. The trade became known as one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history, although few people could have predicted that outcome. At the time of the trade, Brocks best season at the plate had been an ordinary. 263 and he was having trouble defensively, while Broglio had won 18 games twice in his career. Following the trade, Broglio would go on to win only seven more games and retire from baseball after three years, while Brock would lead the Cardinals to two world championships, become baseballs all-time stolen base leader, and be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Brains Before Baseball

Lou Brock was born on June 18, 1939 in El Dorado, Arkansas. Few people who knew him as a youngster would have guessed that he would go on to play 19 major-league seasons, steal 938 bases, and lead the National League in steals eight times. Of all of his playmates, Brock was the smallest and shyest and he did not begin playing baseball until he was 13. His interest in the game began after he wrote a school report about great baseball players such as Jackie Robinson and Joe DiMaggio. Brock attended Union High School in Mer Rouge, Louisiana where he and his future wife Katie led their class academically and represented the school in state math and science competitions. He also joined the baseball team as a left-handed pitcher. Lou and Katie graduated from high school and attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Brock majored in math and played baseball, eventually switching positions from pitcher to outfielder. He had improved so much at his new position that he began to attract the interest of several major league clubs. After an impressive showing at the Pan American Games in 1959, the Chicago Cubs invited Brock to try out for the team.

Climbed to the Big Leagues

In 1961, Brock signed with the Cubs for a $30,000 bonus. He did not want to leave Southern after three years, but he could not afford to turn down the Cubs

At a Glance

Born Louis Clark Brock, June 18, 1939 in El Dorado, Arkansas; Married Katie; Education: Attended Southern University.

Career: Signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1961; Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964, played until 1979.

Honors/awards: In 19 major league seasons scored 1,160 runs, knocked in 900 runs, had 3,023 hits, and a .293 career batting average; Stole 938 bases and appeared in six all-star games; Elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

offer. Brock was assigned to St. Cloud of the Northern League, but his stint in the minor leagues was brief. After leading the Northern League in hits, runs, doubles, and batting average (.361), the Cubs called him up to the majors at the end of the 1961 season. They were so impressed with the young outfielder that Brock was added to the Cubs roster for the 1962 season. However, Brock was not prepared for this promotion. In the Lincoln Library of Sports Champions, Brock remarked, I thought I wasnt ready. When they kept me with the Cubs in 1962, I asked myself why they kept me. What am I doing here? I realize I had the wrong attitude. It was both a blessing and a curse. I was learning with the bestbut I was competing with the best. I didnt think I belonged. I let it hold me back. Brock struggled during his first year in the major leagues. He had compiled a respectable .263 batting average, but he was a defensive liability and was used only as a pinch-hitter late in the season. Brock had another mediocre season in 1963 and in 1964, after a promising start, went into a 3-for-42 slump at the plate. After two below-average seasons, the Cubs traded Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals in the middle of the 1964 season. Upon joining the Cardinals, Brock immediately became the starting left fielder. His impact on the team was dramatic. When Brock became a Cardinal on June 15th, the team was in fourth place, six and one-half games out of first. Brock hit. 348 for the rest of the season as the Cardinals passed the Phillies, the Giants, and the Reds to capture the pennant. He eventually led his team to the 1964 World Series against the Yankees, which the Cardinals won in seven games.

Consistent Excellence

In 1965 Brock scored 107 runs, hit .288, and stole 63 bases, beginning a string of consistently outstanding seasons. In 1966, after stealing 74 bases, he won the first of his eight base-stealing titles. Perhaps Brocks best season was in 1967. He led the National League with 113 runs scored, had 52 steals, notched 21 home runs, and drove in 78 runs. He capped the 1967 season with a stellar performance in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, which the Cardinals won in seven games. He led the Cardinals back to the World Series in 1968, but they were defeated by the Detroit Tigers. At the time, Brock had the highest batting average (.391) of any player to appear in two or more World Series. He had also stolen 14 bases, a World Series record.

After stealing 51 bases in 1970 and finishing with the second-highest total in the league, Brock led the National League in stolen bases from 1971 to 1974. Incredibly, at the age of 35, Brock stole 118 bases during the 1974 season, breaking Maury Willss single-season stolen base record of 104. In 1982, Rickey Henderson broke Brocks record with 130 steals. Brock told The Treasury of Baseball, Baserunning arrogance is just like pitching arrogance or hitting arrogance. You are a force, and you have to instill that you are a force to the opposition. You have to have utter confidence. This aggressive attitude is one of the reasons why Brock became the oldest player to steal 100 bases. In 1977, Brock broke Ty Cobbs career stolen base record of 892. In 1978, at the age of 39, Brock hit only .221, but decided to play one more year in the hope of finishing his career on a strong note. For some professional athletes, the decision to extend their playing career leads to embarrassment or humiliation. This did not happen to Brock. He batted .304, became a member of the 3,000 hit club, and stole 21 bases in 1979. At the end of the season, Brock retired.

During his stellar career, Brock stole 938 bases, captured eight stolen-base titles, scored 90 runs in ten different seasons, and batted .300 in eight seasons. He stole 50 or more bases for 12 consecutive years, totaled 3,023 hits with a career .293 average, and was selected to the All-Star team six times. Since his playing career ended, Brock has remained active with the Cardinals organization and is the owner of a concessions business.

Sources

Books

Pro Sports Hall of Fame: Volume Eight, Creative Media Applications, Inc., 1997.

The Lincoln Library of Sports Champions: Volume Two, Frontier Press Co., 1989.

The Treasury of Baseball, A Celebration of Americas Pastime, Illinois Publications International, Ltd., 1994.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, July 27, 1988.

Sports Illustrated, January 30, 1995, p. 11.

Michael J. Watkins

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