Lou Brock dies at 81; Hall of Famer became key figure in legendary trade

Lou Brock, the Hall of Fame outfielder who set MLB stolen base records (season and career) before being surpassed by Rickey Henderson and who was a principal in one of the most famous trades in baseball history, died Sunday. He was 81.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Brock’s death Sunday evening. 

Brock dealt with multiple health issues in his later years.

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A confusing midseason trade between rivals in 1964 turned into an all-time heist because of what Brock did for his new team. He was part of a six-player deal between the Cubs and Cardinals at the June 15 deadline that year: Brock and pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth went from Chicago to St. Louis for pitchers Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens.

The initial reaction in St. Louis was bewilderment. Broglio was a rotation mainstay; Brock showed great speed and flashed power in Chicago but was strikeout-prone.

As it turned out, then-Cardinals general manager Bing Devine knew what he was doing. Brock hit .348 with 12 home runs and stole 33 bases in 103 games as he helped the Redbirds come from way back to win the National League pennant on the final day of the ’64 season. St. Louis then defeated the Yankees in seven games for the franchise’s first World Series title since 1946.

“None of us expected to see him develop so fast,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane told The Sporting News in its 1965 Official Baseball Guide. 

Broglio posted a 5.40 ERA over parts of three seasons with the Cubs and made his last major league appearance in 1966.

Brock became a franchise rock in St. Louis. He was the leadoff hitter for pennant-winning Cardinals teams in 1967 and 1968. St. Louis earned a second Series triumph in ’67 by beating the Red Sox in seven. The Cards lost in seven the next year to the Tigers after leading 3-1 in the series.

In his three postseason appearances, all in World Series, Brock hit a combined .391/.424/.655.

Brock’s baserunning became his calling card even though he also was a member of MLB’s 3,000-hit club (3,023). He broke Maury Wills’ record with 118 stolen bases in 1974, and by the time he retired following the 1979 season, he had surpassed Ty Cobb with 938 steals. Henderson zoomed past Brock in both categories in 1982 and 1991, respectively.

Brock was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. He was a longtime resident of the St. Louis area, where he became a beloved figure and made regular apperances at Busch Stadium.

The present-day Cardinals and Cubs observed a moment of silence for Brock prior to their game at Wrigley Field on Sunday night.

Early reactions from around the baseball world to Brock’s death:

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