Hall of Famer Lou Brock, one of the most famous baseball players and base stealer of baseball who helped the St. Louis Cardinals win three pennants and two World Series in the 1960s, has died. He was 81 years old.
Dick Zitzmann, Brock's longtime agent and friend, confirmed Brock's death Sunday but said he could not provide details. The Cardinals and Cubs also observed a moment of silence in the outfielder's mind before their game at Wrigley Field.
Brock lost a leg to diabetes in recent years and was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.
"Lou Brock was one of the most revered members of the St. Louis Cardinals Organization and one of the best to ever wear the Birds on the Bat," said Bill DeWitt Jr., chairman of the Cardinals, in a press release.
"He is very much missed and will be remembered forever."
Nicknamed "Running Redbird" and "Base Burglar", the man arrived in St. Louis in June 1964 and traded the Cubs for pitcher Ernie Broglio in what became one of the most one-sided deals in baseball.
Brock stole 938 bases in his career, 118 of them in 1974 – both of which were big league records until broken by Rickey Henderson.
"Lou has been a great representative of our national pastime and will be greatly missed," said Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in a press release.
Brock's death came after Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver died on Monday. Brock and Seaver have faced each other 157 times, the most productive matchup for both of them in their careers.
Along with starter Bob Gibson and midfielder Curt Flood, Brock was an anchor for St. Louis as his combination of speed, defense and pitching made them a top team in the '60s and was a symbol of the National League's then more aggressive style compared to the American League.
"There are two things I will remember most about Lou," former Cardinals teammate Ted Simmons said in a statement. “First was his lively smile. Whenever you were in a room with Lou you couldn't miss it – the biggest, brightest and most vibrant smile in the world. The other was that he was certainly injured many times, but never in my life did I know he was playing injured. "
The cards were world champions in 1964 and 1967 and lost in seven games against the Detroit Tigers in 1968. Opposing teams were warned to keep Brock off the base, especially in the 1967-68 years, when a single run could often win a game. But the fast-paced left fielder with the pop-up slide has been an enduring champion and run maker.
A lifelong batsman with 293 hits, he led the league eight times, scored 100 or more runs seven times and collected 3,023 hits.
Brock was even better in the postseason, beating .391 with 39 homers, 16 RBIs and 14 steals in 21 World Series games. He had a record of 13 hits in the 1968 World Series and homered, tripling, and doubling in Game 4 when the Cardinals defeated Detroit and 31-game winner Denny McLain 10-1.
Brock never played in any other World Series after 1968, but remained a star for the last 11 years of his career.
He was so synonymous with grassroots theft that in 1978 he became the first major leaguer to receive an award named after him while he was still active – the Lou Brock Award for the National League's Leading Stealer. For Brock, basic theft was an art form and a form of warfare. He was among the first to study films about opposing pitchers and once established he relied on skill and psychology.
In his 1976 treatise "Lou Brock: Stealing is My Game", he declared his success. Take a "humble lead" and "stand still". The thrower was required to move, if only "to deliver the pitch". "He also has two things on his mind: the dough and me," wrote Brock. “I only have one thing on my mind – to steal it. The business of worrying him is amazingly complex. "
Brock ended his career in 1979 with a hit to .304, his sixth All-Star Game appearance and the award for Comeback Player of the Year. The team withdrew his uniform number 20 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his freshman year in 1985.
The soft spoken Brock was determined regardless of the score, and sometimes angered opponents and teammates by stealing even when the cards were way ahead. He also made two harmful mistakes that cost St. Louis the '68 World Series.
After his career as a player ended, Brock worked as a florist and commentator for ABC's "Monday Night Baseball" and was a regular in spring practice for the cards. He served as a part-time teacher and remained an autograph favorite with fans, some of whom wore Brock-a-Brellas, a hat with an umbrella he designed.
"Our hearts are a little heavy for Lou's death, but we know he's in a better place," said Cardinal Manager Mike Shildt.
Brock had been a nominal churchgoer since childhood, but his beliefs deepened after personal struggles in the 1980s, and he and his third wife, Jacky, became ordained ministers to serve in the Abundant Life Fellowship Church in St. Louis. He spoke of an "alarm clock with holy spirit" when tempted to continue on his earlier paths.
"Your old lifestyle is not going away. It will be around you for a long time. But you will find that there is no place to enter," he once told The Christian Broadcasting Network.
Brock was married three times and had three children, including Lou Brock Jr., a former NFL cornerback and security.
Lou Brock Sr., the seventh of nine children, was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, and raised in a four bedroom cabin in rural Collinston, Louisiana. His introduction to baseball came by accident. Brock spat on a teacher and had to write a book report on baseball as a punishment, presumably to teach him about life beyond Collinston.
A star athlete in high school, he was accepted into Southern University on a working scholarship, nearly failed, but stayed in college when a baseball test resulted in an athletic scholarship. Brock signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1960, made his Major League debut late the following season, and started in 1962.
After beating Chicago just .251 by the time he was traded in 1964, Brock beat the rest of the way at 33,348, helping St. Louis overtake Philadelphia and win the pennant. Meanwhile, Broglio was finished by 1966. He was an 18-game winner in 1963 but, as the Cubs would find, had persistent arm problems and never again hit double-digit wins.
"(Broadcaster) Brent Musburger had just left college when the deal closed," Brock told MiLB.com in 2010. "You sent him in to make the story." It was his first assignment. The content of the interview resulted in a headline in the newspaper: "Cubs pull off biggest theft since Brink's Robbery."
"Every time I see Brent, this is our connection. He wrote this, so every time I see him I say, 'Do you still think this was the biggest theft since the Brink was robbed?"
Chicago-based AP sports journalist Jay Cohen contributed to this report.
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