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Remembering Lou Brock

Baseball legend and one-time stolen base king Lou Brock died yesterday at the age of 81. The six-time All-Star helped the St. Louis Cardinals capture two World Series championships (1964 and 1967). Here are 10 fascinating facts about the great Lou Brock:

♦ Brock was born on June 18, 1939 in El Dorado, Arkansas and grew up in Mer Rouge, Louisiana. His first exposure to baseball occurred in the fourth grade, when he threw an errant spitball at a girl and hit his teacher instead. As punishment, he had to write a research paper on the lives of Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson, who had just broken Major League Baseball’s color barrier.

♦ Brock fell in love with the sport while listening to games on the radio. “I was searching the dial of an old Philco radio,” he once recalled, “and I heard Harry Caray and Jack Buck, and I felt pride in being alive. The baseball field was my fantasy of what life offered.”

♦ He attended Southern University in Baton Rouge. During his junior season, he led the to the NAIA championship. Other notable Southern alumni include NFL Hall of Famer Mel Blount, former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson, NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams, “American Idol” Judge Randy Jackson, and jazz musician Branford Marsalis.

♦ Brock signed a pro contract with the Chicago Cubs and made his MLB debut on Sept. 10, 1961. Playing centerfield, he went 1 for 5, scored a run and committed 2 errors. The Pittsburgh Pirates blew out the Cubbies, 14-6. Brock’s teammates included the great Ernie Banks, who was then in his ninth season in Chicago.

Chicago Tribune News clipping from Lou Brock’s Major League Baseball debut in 1961.

♦ In 1962, Brock became one of only four players to hit a home run into the centerfield bleachers at the Polo Grounds in New York. The other three who accomplished this feat were Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Joe Adcock.

♦ In June 1964, Brock was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards felt that Brock, who was viewed as a disappointment in Chicago, could help solidify their team, which had struggled after Stan Musial’s retirement in 1963. The trade paid immediate dividends, as Brock blossomed as a player – he would finish 10th in the National League MVP race – and the Cardinals captured the World Series, defeating the New York Yankees in seven games.

♦ After joining the Cardinals, Brock transitioned from a power hitter to a base stealer. In a nine-year span from 1966 to 1974, he led the National League in stolen bases eight times. In 1967, he became the first major leaguer to record 20 HRs and 50 stolen bases in one season.

♦ On Aug. 13, 1979, Brock became just the 14th player in MLB history to collect 3,000 hits. His milestone hit, ironically, came against his old team, the Chicago Cubs, He would retire at the end of the season, but not before being named the NL’s Comeback Player of the Year. Brock became the first player to win the award in his final season.

♦ Brock’s MLB career stats: 19 years. 2,616 games. 3,023 hits. 1,610 runs. 900 RBIs. 149 HRs. 938 stolen bases. .293 batting average.

♦ In 1985, Brock was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He received 79.7 percent of the vote.

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