Lou Brock Biography

Lou Brock, a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, is widely recognized for being one of the most prolific base stealers in baseball history. His 938 steals eclipsed Ty Cobb's long standing mark of 892, but his work wasn't strictly limited to the basepaths. A six-time All-Star, Brock is a member of the 3,000 career hit club and recorded a .391 career World Series batting average. His trade from the Cubs to the Cardinals in 1964 played a large part in St. Louis' appearance in three out of the following five World Series.

Early Years

Louis Clark Brock was born June 18, 1939, in El Dorado, Arkansas, as the seventh of nine children. He grew up in Collinston, Louisiana. At Union High School he played both basketball and baseball and excelled academically enough to earn an academic scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge. But at Southern, his grades initially faltered to the point where he lost his academic scholarship. Needing funding to remain a student, Brock was able to secure an athletic scholarship when he decided to try out for the baseball team. He went on to lead Southern to a NAIA World Series Championship and was selected by the USOC to play on the USA Pan American team. Though known during his major league tenure as a speed demon, Brock mostly fashioned himself as a power hitter in college. Lou left college his junior year and accepted a $30,000 bonus from the Chicago Cubs.

Professional Career

Chicago Cubs (1961-64)

On Sept. 10, 1961, Lou Brock broke into the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs. Because of his speed the Cubs initially slotted him in center field. Brock was ill-suited to play the position because of his lack of a strong arm and unfamiliarity with the position, especially when having to deal with the flight of the ball in the Windy City. Early on in his career, Brock struggled at the plate, as well. In 1,207 at-bats with the Cubs, Brock struck out 261 times and stole only 50 bases. Midway through the 1964 season -- and with Brock only batting .251 -- the Cubs tired of waiting around for the young 24 year old to fulfill his potential. Brock was shipped off to the Cardinals in a historic trade that would have major ramifications.

The Cubs traded Brock, along with pitchers Paul Toth and Jack Spring, for pitchers Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemons on June 15, 1964. Broglio was considered the jewel of the trade, having won 21 games in 1960 and 18 in the prior season. While Brock went on to have a .348 average with 12 home runs and 33 stolen bases to end the 1964 season (not to mention a Hall-of-Fame career), Broglio went 4-7 with the Cubs in 1964 and would go on to pitch just two more seasons, accumulating a 3-12 record before retiring for good.

St. Louis Cardinals (1964-79)

When the Cardinals traded for Brock, their left fielder at the time was Charlie James -- a .223 hitter for the season with a .261 on-base percentage. The Cardinals were 28-31 and seven games out of first place. In Brock, they got much more than speed at the top of the order.

Playing left field, Brock hit .348, with 12 home runs and 33 stolen bases in his first season. He led the team to a historic charge and a 54-29 second half record, and the Cardinals beat out the Reds and Phillies for the pennant by a single game. Against the vaunted Yankees (who were making their 14th world series appearance in 16 years), Brock pulled off another clutch moment in Game 7 when he launched a fifth inning home-run helping the Cardinals to a decisive 7-5 victory and the World Series crown.

In 1967 Brock made his first All-Star team, hitting .299 with 12 triples, 21 home runs and 52 stolen bases on the season. The Cardinals took home the pennant once again, winning 101 games. Against the Red Sox in the World Series, Brock batted .414 with a record seven stolen bases (three of which came in Game 7) helping to lead the Cardinals to their second championship in four years. In 1968, Brock finished sixth in MVP voting when he hit 46 doubles and 14 triples and stole 62 bases. The Cardinals also made their third World Series appearance in five years, this time against the Detroit Tigers. Despite Brock hitting .464 and two home runs, stealing seven bases and managing a .516 on-base percentage, the Cardinals lost in seven games.

Brock led the NL in steals eight times between 1966-1974, but in that 1974 season, he managed to pull off arguably his greatest achievement -- even though he was 35 years of age. On Sept. 10, 1974 (13 years to the day after his first major league game) against Philadelphia's Dick Ruthven, Brock stole his 105th base to eclipse Maury Wills' single-season record. During a timeout to celebrate the moment, former Negro League speedster James "Cool Papa" Bell presented Brock with the base he had just stolen and said, "We decided to give him his 105th base, because if we didn't, he was going to steal it, anyway." Lou Brock also broke Max Carey's 45-year old National League career steals record of 738 in that game. He would finish the season with 118 thefts, as well as a close second place finish to Steve Garvey in the NL MVP voting.

After that 1974 season, age began to creep up on Brock. He still made the All-Star team in 1975 and stole 56 bases consecutively in 1975 and 1976, but he had become an easier to target to throw out. In 1977, he stole 35 bases but he also was caught a league-leading 24 times. In 1978, his career looked all but over when he was eventually benched, hitting just .221 on the year. On top of his own poor performance, the Cardinals finished with their worst winning percentage since 1924, just 69 wins to their name. At the end of the 1978 season, Brock stood at 2,900 career hits.

But, though his career looked to be coming to an end, Brock bounced back with an inspiring 1979 campaign. During the first half of the year he hit .322, placing himself among the batting leaders. He was selected to his sixth All-Star game and first since 1975. Then, on Aug. 13 at Busch Stadium, Brock led off the fourth inning with his 3,000th hit. The Cardinals made a 17-win improvement from the previous season, and Brock retired with a .304 average in his final year. He was selected for the "Hutch Award" and ended his career with 3,023 hits, 1,610 runs, 486 doubles, 141 triples, and 938 stolen bases.

In 1985 he was inducted into the Hall-of-Fame on the first ballot.

Brock currently serves as a spring training coach for the Cardinals each year.

Legacy

Brock's major league stolen base record of 938 would stand until 1991, when Rickey Henderson eclipsed his mark. After Henderson broke the record he famously said, "Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing, but today I am the greatest."

His No. 20 jersey was retired by the Cardinals in 1979, and he was ranked #58 by The Sporting News on its list of baseball's 100 greatest players of the 20th century.

The "Lou Brock Award" is handed out to the National League leader in stolen bases every season.

Lou Brock established the "Endowment Scholarship Fund" at Southern University, which provides scholarships for college bound low income high school students.

In 2002 he received the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Award

Personal

Lou Brock lives in St. Charles, Missouri with his wife, Jacqueline Gaitor. Together they have five children and two granddaughters. Both he and his wife are ordained ministers, and together they work to raise money for worthy causes and charities.