Brock becomes steals king

Written by: Kristen Gowdy

In 1967, Lou Brock took a logical stance on the notion that he could possibly break Maury Wills’ modern single-season stolen base record.

“It would take a man who doesn’t get too many extra-base hits,” Brock said, expressing his doubt that he could ever surpass the record.

Seven years later, Brock accomplished what seemed impossible – stealing 118 bases to break Wills’ previous mark of 104.

He tied and broke the record by swiping his 104th and 105th bases on Sept. 10, 1974 as his St. Louis Cardinals dropped an 8-2 decision to the Philadelphia Phillies.

A year where his power numbers were down presented the perfect opportunity for Brock to accomplish the feat.

The speedster had just 35 extra-base hits in 1974 despite averaging more than 40 per season in his 19-year career with the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.

On that record-setting night, Brock led off the bottom of the first inning with a single to left field, then nabbed second base and advanced to third on a throwing error from Phillies’ catcher Bob Boone. He later scored on a Ted Simmons single.

In the bottom of the seventh, Brock recorded his second hit of the day. Before the next batter was finished with his plate appearance, Brock stole second to become the first player in modern Major League history to swipe 105 bases in a single season.

His feat became a stepping stone on his path to enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Known and revered as an excellent tactician on the bases, Brock compiled a then-Major League record 938 career steals. He currently sits at No.2 on the all-time list behind another Hall of Famer: Rickey Henderson.

Brock also is behind just Henderson on the modern single-season stolen base list. Henderson stole 130 bases in 1982.

Brock’s 118 stolen bases in 1974 were by far his best single-season mark, followed by 74 in 1966 and 70 in 1963. Brock led the National League in steals eight times during his career. Six of those were also Major League-highs for that season.

Brock retired at age 40 following the 1979 season. He amassed a .293 career batting average and was nicknamed “The Franchise” for his loyalty to St. Louis and the Cardinals’ organization.

He was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, becoming the 20th first ballot Hall of Famer.

“The numbers can hardly tell the full story of Louis Clark Brock,” wrote New York Daily News reporter Phil Pepe in 1979. “They cannot tell you of the enthusiasm he possessed, the zest for the game, the excitement he generated, the joy of watching him. If you have not seen him play, you have missed one of the great joys of sport.”

Kristen Gowdy was a public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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