By Shane Gravlin
Cooperstown’s Louis Clark Brock died Sunday, September 6, but his impact on the sport of baseball and on the city of St. Louis is infinite and unending.
Lou Brock played in his final Major League game over forty years ago, and while he won’t throw out any more pitches on Opening Day at Busch Stadium, the legacy he forged is still revered to this day — and always will be — by Cardinals fans.
On June 15, 1964, the Cardinals dealt one of the top pitchers in the National League, Ernie Broglio, to the Chicago Cubs. Broglio had gone 18-8 in 1963 and had led the NL with 21 victories a few years earlier. It was a six-player deal, and all it cost the Cubs was some 24-year-old outfielder named Lou Brock whose batting average was just .251.
Bob Gibson called it the “the worst trade ever” at the time, but he would quickly regret that statement. Upon arrival Lou Brock had an instant effect, suddenly clubbing home runs — something he didn’t do in Chicago — and putting the league on notice with his prodigious base-stealing abilities.
On the day of the trade the Cardinals record sat at a mediocre 28-31, according to baseballreference.com. The very next day, left fielder Lou Brock drew two walks and recorded two base hits, in addition to stealing a base of course, in a Cardinals 7-1 win over the Houston Colt .45s.
The club would win its next three and ultimately finish the season at an impressive 93-69. That same year, the Cardinals went on to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time since 1946.
“We couldn’t have won in ‘64 without him,” said Bill White, the Cardinals first baseman that season, in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Few could have foreseen the sheer rip-off that trade turned out to be. Three years later in 1967, Ernie Broglio retired as Lou Brock was battling for his second World Series title as a Cardinal and stealing seven bases in the seven-game series with the Red Sox, posting a .414 batting average en route to another Red Birds championship.
Lou Brock was a six-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion, a member of the 3,000 hit club and, most notably, the National League’s all-time leader in stolen bases with 938. Naturally, he was a first ballot Hall of Famer and was inducted in 1985.
On a less tangible level, Lou Brock bridged generations of baseball fans. My father and my grandfather watched Brock steal base after base in awe, bringing them closer and inspiring my father to pass that on to me once I was born. If Lou hadn’t won over the fans of the ‘60s and ‘70s, would those fans have passed the Cardinals down to their children of the ‘90s and 2000s?
The “base burglar,” as he was appropriately nicknamed, won championships and awards, but his influence on the sport of baseball goes much beyond that, and for that reason he shall never be forgotten. He stole bases, sure, but more importantly he stole hearts and generated Cardinals fans for years to come.
It’s poetic that the Cardinals on the night of Brock’s death beat the Chicago Cubs 7-3.
Heaven got one heck of a leadoff hitter. Rest in peace, Sweet Lou.
Edited by Emma Moloney