The world of baseball lost another face on the Mount Rushmore of legends recently. This time, we send the speedster in red to join former team greats, Rogers Hornsby and Stan Musial, on the proverbial field of dreams. The left fielder from El Dorado, Arkansas, paved the way for great base-stealers and exemplified what a good outfielder should be. To all you non-St. Louis Cardinals aficionados, I’m talking about the legendary Lou Brock.
For decades, the St. Louis Cardinals’ image surrounded Brock. His first season with the Cardinals saw him relocating from Chicago, being welcomed with a 28-31 team record. As soon as Brock hit the field, the atmosphere seemed to change; the air seemed clearer, in a way. The Cardinals went from 28-31 pre-Brock to winning the National League pennant on the very last day of the season, post-Brock. Four months to the day of his trade, the Cardinals won the World Series over the Yankees, who were appearing in their 14th fall classic in 16 years.
That’s one of the reasons I love baseball so much: it’s almost poetic. Situations happen that can only occur in baseball and in the most beautiful way. The Cardinals won the World Series four months to the day that they traded for Brock. Ichiro began and ended his season against the Athletics, with a 4-3 score in both games. Derek Jeter’s last hit ever at Yankee Stadium was a game-winning RBI single. Things like this just don’t happen in real life like they do in baseball. Like I said, it’s poetic. How can you not be romantic about baseball?
I could talk about the beautiful serendipity of the game for hours; but that’s not why we’re here. We are here to celebrate the life of a legend — to celebrate a true athletic icon. The local product broke the all-time stolen base record that had been held tight by Ty Cobb for 49 years. The first ballot hall of famer paved the way for the fastest in the game to have a place out there; the diamond wasn’t just for the bombers and fireballers anymore. The fleet-footed finally had a hand on the steering wheel and helped guide the game to where it is today.
Many players since Brock’s final at bat have adapted to the “speedster” model of the game, like new all-time steal leader Rickey Henderson, Treaae Turner and St. Louis’ treasure Ozzie Smith. Brock helped prove that the long ball wasn’t the only way to play the game; he did it his own way. Lou Brock didn’t just play the game; he changed it.
The world is a little bit darker without him here. As we remember from our look into Tom Seaver’s life, heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Rest in power, Lou. May your legacy and influence live on as long as the game does, and beyond.