By George Castle, CBM Historian
September 8, 2020
The true measure of Louis Clark Brock goes far beyond his Hall of Fame status, 938 stolen bases — including 14 in the World Series and an NL record 118 in 1974 – along with 3,023 hits.
The complete tally is Brock’s baseball intellect. He was a true student of the game whose bottom line was striving to improve. And those “smarts,” as baseball second-sight was once called, radically affected the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, the two teams to which Brock will always be tethered now that he has passed into the ages at 81, less than a week after worthy foe Tom Seaver.
Ever since June 15, 1964, one of the most infamous days in Cubs history, Brock has been the biggest ghost in the franchise timeline, the all-encompassing “What if?” that took away MVP-style production along with heart and soul from sports’ most star-crossed team.
The Cubs were a slow, ponderous team, and not just on the basepaths. A substandard baseball organization starved for both financial and intellectual capital by Phil Wrigley, likely baseball’s most affluent owner in his time, and then for decades by the Tribune Company could not nearly put together a championship-caliber team for an impossibly long time. All the while when the Cubs could advance just one base at a time, they had squandered away base burglar Brock and Bill North, two-time American League stolen-base king.
Three-hundred miles down Route 66/I-55 and in a more tropical climate, the Cardinals quenched their own 18-year pennant drought by stealing Brock from the Cubs in exchange for aching right-hander Ernie Broglio. Both team and man were simultaneously freed from shackles. Brock stole 33 bases and batted .348 in two-thirds of the remaining 1964 season, as if afterburners were suddenly affixed to Gussie Busch’s franchise. Busch paid decently, for the time, and Brock well-earned his pay leading the Cards to two World Series triumphs and three pennants to round out the Sixties.
STORYCategory Chicago Baseball History Feature Tags Baseball Hall of Fame, Chicago Cubs, Lou Brock, St. Louis Cardinals