Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Binder Pages--Cardinals Hall of Fame Edition: Lou Brock

Lou Brock aka "The Franchise"

     Louis Clark Brock was born on June 18, 1939 in El Dorado, Arkansas. His parents, Maud and Paralee Brock, were sharecroppers. When Brock was two years old, his father, Maud, abandoned the family. Lou's mother, Paralee, moved Lou and his eight siblings to Collinston, Louisiana where she worked as a field hand and housekeeper.  

     As a youth, Lou showed athletic and academic talent. He attended Union High School in Monroe, Louisiana where he played baseball and basketball. Despite the fact Brock was not scouted by collegiate baseball or basketball teams, Brock earned a scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA based on his academic record. 

     According to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Brock worked as a janitor and mowed lawns until baseball season began. He tried out for the team, but wasn't getting much attention from the coach. One day, he collapsed in the outfield while shagging fly balls and it caught the attention of coach, Emory Hines. Brock asserted that he wanted to play baseball and Hines asked him to hit. Lou got five swings and hit four balls over the fence. Brock had a lackluster freshman year, but, as a sophomore, led the Southern University Jaguars to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championship. On August 22, 1960, Lou was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and was offered a $30,000 signing bonus. For a young man who had grown up in poverty, it was more than enough to coax Lou out of returning to school for his senior year.

Chicago Cubs (1961-1964)

     Lou spent the 1961 season in St. Cloud, Minnesota playing for the Rox, a Class C affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. He posted a .361 batting average, scored 118 runs, and stole 38 bases. It earned him a late-season call-up. Brock experienced little success with the major league club, only acquiring one hit in eleven at bats over four games. 

     Despite his dismal debut in 1961, Lou earned a spot on the Cubs roster out of spring training in 1962 and, subsequently, cracked the starting lineup. He struggled with the Cubs, establishing himself as a .250 hitter and only stealing fifty bases over the course of two and a half seasons. On June 15, 1964, the Cubs traded Brock, along with Jack Springer and Paul Toth, to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz, and Doug Clemens. It seemed like a good deal for the Cubs at the time. Broglio won 18 games in 1963, but wasn't able to match his prior production with the Cardinals. He won only seven games during his time with the Cubs from 1964-1966. By the end of the '66 season, Broglio's major league career was over. Brock, on the other hand, was just hitting his stride.

St. Louis Cardinals (1964-1979)
1966 Topps #125
     Brock made an immediate impact after he joined the Cardinals in 1964 by posting a .348 batting average, scoring 81 runs, and stealing 33 bases. According to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas, the Cubs limited his baserunning, but when he reached St. Louis he was turned loose and told to take as many bags as he could. The advice paid dividends for Lou and St. Louis. The Cardinals bested the New York Yankees in the 1964 World Series. In seven games, Lou batted .300, scored two runs, and drove in five.

     1965 marked a couple firsts in Lou's career. It was the first time that he scored 100 runs with one team (Brock scored 100 runs in 1964 with the Cubs and Cardinals) and it was also the first time that he stole 50 bases in one season. 

     In 1966, he grabbed 74 bags, the best in the National League and began a four-year stretch of leading the league in stolen bases.
1968 Topps #520
     Brock became an All-Star in 1967, his first of six All-Star appearances. Lou batted .299 that year while blasting 21 home runs, scoring 113 runs, and stealing 52 bases. Lou and the Cardinals found themselves, once again, in the World Series--this time against the Boston Red Sox. Brock batted .415, scoring 8 runs, and stealing 7 bases as the Cardinals defeated the Red Sox in 7 games.

     Brock improved upon his 1967 World Series performance by batting .464 while belting two home runs and, once again, stealing 7 bases in the 1968 World Series. Despite Lou's heroic performance, the Cardinals fell to the Detroit Tigers in seven games.
1970 Topps #330
     Brock continued to steal 50+ bases per season in the early 70s and batted over .300 in each season from 1970 to 1972. Lou returned to the All-Star Game in 1971 and 1972 when he recorded his final two 200+ hit seasons.
1972 Topps #200
 Brock put up strong numbers in 1973 by hitting .297 and scoring over 100 runs for the fifth time in his career while stealing 63 bases, but in 1974, Lou did what some thought would be impossible. He broke Maury Will's single-season stolen base record of 104 bags by nabbing 118 bases.
1973 Topps #320


1974 Topps #60

1975 Topps #2
     Lou's record stood untouched for eight years before it was surpassed by Rickey Henderson in 1982.
1975 Topps #309

In addition, Brock made his fifth All-Star appearance.

To Be Continued

1975 Topps #540

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