J. Thomas McNamara
The St. Louis Cardinals are known around professional baseball as having the best fans in the game and here’s an indication why which comes from a guy who covered them in 1966 through part of 1968 when I worked for the former Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers Edwardsville Intelligencer newspaper.
In 1968 Lou Brock made two huge mistakes which possibly cost the Cardinals the World Series championship against the Detroit Tigers. With the Cardinals leading in game five, Brock doubled and failed to slide at the plate and was tagged out. Detroit players said at the time that was the turning point in the Series as they came back to win that game, 5-3.
And then in game seven Mickey Lolich picked Brock off first base with the score tied at the time.
Detroit went on to win that game seven and the series in St. Louis.
Ironically, that was the last World Series Brock played in as the Cardinals did not make it back there before he retired in 1978.
Cardinals fans did not turn on the guy they received in the greatest trade the Cardinals ever made in 1964 when they received Brock from the Chicago Cubs for Ernie Broglio. Cardinals great Bob Gibson said at the time it was the worst trade the team could have made and we all know how that turned out. Brock led the Cardinals to the National League pennant with their win on the last day of the season and then won the ’64 World Series by beating the New York Yankees.
Hall of Famer Brock, who died at age 81 Sunday afternoon after being in ill health at his home, will be remembered for many accomplishments.
He was the National League’s all-time leader in stolen bases with 938. He had 3,023 hits. He was a first-ballot electee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He was the “Base Burglar,” who came to the Cardinals in 1964 via a trade in which the Cardinals ripped off the Chicago Cubs.
Brock stole 938 bases in his career, including 118 in 1974 — both of those were MLB records until they were broken by Rickey Henderson.
Brock, who had a career batting average of .293, led the majors in steals eight times and scored 100 or more runs seven times. He also accumulated 3,023 career hits. In the postseason, Brock was even more impressive. He had a .391 batting average, with four home runs, 16 RBIs, and 14 steals in 21 World Series games. He led the Cardinals to World Series titles in 1964 and 1967.
But he also was known as one of the toughest baseball players that his former teammates had ever seen and that was before he encountered diabetes which caused him to have his left leg amputated. Before he suffered multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer), before he suffered a stroke, before he suffered a heart ailment.
“Lou Brock was one of the most revered members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization and one of the very best to ever wear the Birds on the Bat,” Cardinals owner William O. DeWitt Jr. said in a statement.
From my 2 1/2 years covering the baseball and football Cardinals when I worked at the Intelligencer, I got to know Lou well and I’ll have more on his passing in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.