He was baseball’s most dangerous player for more than a decade, pressuring opponents with speed and daring on the basepaths.
But Lou Brock was much more than a stolen base specialist. And by the end of his spectacular 19-year big league career, Brock was recognized as one of baseball’s most complete – and clutch – players of the 20th Century.
Born June 18, 1939, in El Dorado, Ark., Louis Clark Brock played college baseball at Southern University before signing as an amateur free agent with the Cubs in 1960. After two years tearing up the minor leagues, Brock surfaced in Chicago at the tail end of the 1961 season, becoming the Cubs’ regular center fielder in 1962. The following year, the 24-year-old Brock played 148 games as Chicago’s right fielder, scoring 79 runs while stealing 24 bases and hitting .258.
But on June 15, 1964, the Cubs – desperate for pitching – dealt Brock to the Cardinals as part of a trade for Ernie Broglio, an 18-game winner in 1963.
“I guess that fewer than two percent of the people in baseball thought it was a good trade for us,” said Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer.
Brock proved the doubters wrong, hitting .348 with 81 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in just 103 games for St. Louis while leading the Cardinals to the National League pennant. In the World Series, the Cardinals’ new left fielder hit .300 with five RBI to help St. Louis beat the Yankees in seven games.
The next year, Brock began a stretch of 12 seasons where he averaged 65 steals and 99 runs scored a year. He led the Cardinals to back-to-back NL pennants in 1967 and 1968 and the World Series title in 1967, hitting .439 in the two Fall Classics, which included a record 13 hits in the 1968 World Series and 12 the year before.
In 1974, the 35-year-old Brock mounted a successful challenge to Maury Wills’ 12-year-old stolen base record, amassing 118 steals while finishing second in the NL Most Valuable Player voting.
Brock surpassed Ty Cobb’s all-time stolen base mark of 892 during the 1977 season. He led the NL in steals every year but one between 1966 and 1974.
He finished his career in 1979 with an All-Star Game appearance that year (his sixth) while hitting .304. He totaled 3,023 hits, 1,610 runs, 900 RBI and 938 steals – a stolen base mark that stood until 1991.
Brock was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985 in his first year of eligibility, becoming just the 20th player elected in his first year on the ballot. He passed away on Sept. 6, 2020.