Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Baseball » Lou Brock Biography - Reared In Small Southern Town, Slugged Way Onto College Baseball Team, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments - SELECTED WRITINGS BY BROCK:

Lou Brock - Turned Base-stealing Into An Art

stl stolen cobb record

By 1970, Brock was known for his basepathg escapades. In the decades before Brock joined the major leagues, the stolen base had become a lost art as players concentrated more on swinging for power. The decline in the stolen base was notable. In 1930, there were 1,079 stolen bases in the league. By 1950, that number had dwindled to 650. Most people assumed Ty Cobb's 1915 record of 96 stolen bases in a single season was untouchable.

Then came Brock, who elevated base-stealing to an art. He scrutinized pitchers, hoping to learn their cadence and rhythm. He wanted to be able to recognize the split-second the pitcher had committed himself to throw home. Brock also studied a pitcher's habits, hoping to find a pattern so he would know when a curve was coming. Since curves take a second of a fraction longer to reach home plate, Brock preferred to run on a curveball.

Brock didn't just watch pitchers, he filmed them on an eight-millimeter camera. At home, he studied the films, watching for signs, twitches, anything that might help him read a pitcher better.

A former math major in college, Brock calculated that there were 3.5 seconds between the time the ball left the pitcher's hand, landed in the catcher's mitt, and ended up back at second base. Brock outlined his base-stealing strategy in a 1974 Newsweek article.

"I can't run from first to second in 3.5 seconds," he admitted. "I don't think I could when I was younger, and I'm slower now. So the key is that instant when the shift of the pitcher's anatomy tells me he can't come to first. He has to go to the plate. I go on that shift. That extra instant is all I need to make it safely."

Brock also got some help from teammates along the way. Batters who followed Brock often stood deep in the batter's box, forcing the catcher back farther.

Brock's base-stealing tactics turned him into an offensive machine. In effect, any single Brock hit could be turned into a double through his base-stealing prowess. Once on second, Brock could score easily if the ball was hit into the outfield.

Career Statistics

Yr Team AVG GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB E
CHI: Chicago Cubs; STL: St. Louis Cardinals.
Post-season play: Appeared in 21 games in three World Series-1964, 1967, 1968. World Series statistics include a .391 batting average, 34 hits and 14 stolen bases.
1961 CHI .091 4 11 1 1 0 0 1 3 0 2
1962 CHI .263 123 434 73 114 9 35 35 96 16 9
1963 CHI .258 148 547 79 141 9 37 31 122 24 8
1964 CHI .251 52 215 30 54 2 14 13 40 10 4
1964 STL .348 103 419 81 146 12 44 27 87 33 10
1965 STL .288 155 631 107 182 16 69 45 116 63 12
1966 STL .285 156 643 94 183 15 46 31 134 74 19
1967 STL .299 159 689 113 206 21 76 24 109 52 13
1968 STL .279 159 660 92 184 6 51 46 124 62 14
1969 STL .298 157 655 97 195 12 47 50 115 53 14
1970 STL .304 155 664 114 202 13 57 60 99 51 10
1971 STL .312 157 640 126 200 7 61 76 107 64 14
1972 STL .311 153 621 81 193 3 42 47 93 63 13
1973 STL .297 160 650 110 193 7 63 71 112 70 12
1974 STL .306 153 635 105 194 3 48 61 88 118 10
1975 STL .309 136 528 78 163 3 47 38 64 56 9
1976 STL .301 133 498 73 150 4 67 35 75 56 4
1977 STL .272 141 489 69 133 2 46 30 74 35 9
1978 STL .221 92 298 31 66 0 12 17 29 17 3
1979 STL .304 120 405 56 123 5 38 23 43 21 7
TOTAL .293 2616 10332 1610 3023 149 900 761 1730 938 196

For Brock, baseball became all about stealing bases. In an issue of Time, Brock expressed his thoughts this way: "Stealing is the most dramatic moment of the game. The pitcher knows you're going, the crowd knows you're going, you know you're going. When you succeed it's a great feeling. Nothing upsets the other team as much as a stolen base."

As Brock perfected his stealing strategies, he also perfected his slide. Brock preferred a straight, "pop-up" slide, instead of the traditional hook slide, which starts 15 feet out from the base and wears the body. Brock's signature pop-up slide allowed him to accelerate full-speed into the bag. Because he ended his slides by pop-ping up, if there was an error in the throw, he could take third as well.

Before Brock came along, there was a player named Maury Wills who helped rejuvenate the stolen base. In 1962, Wills stole 104 bases, breaking Ty Cobb's record. No one imagined it could be topped again. But that was before Brock. In 1974, Brock broke Wills' stranglehold on the single-season steal mark of 104 by grabbing 118 stolen bases. That same season, he also scored 105 runs and batted .306.

Three years later, Brock broke Ty Cobb's career stolen-base record. It happened on August 29, 1977, when Brock entered the game one shy of Cobb's record of 892. As a leadoff batter, the eager Brock drew a walk and trotted to first. The Padres were nervous to have Brock on base and the pitcher, Dave Freisleben, stared at Brock, then briefly walked off the mound. On the next pitch, Brock took off and safely made it to second. He was now tied with Cobb.

In the seventh inning, Brock was on base once again with a chance to steal. Though the Cardinals were playing in San Diego, the fans were rooting for Brock. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, they chanted, "Lou … Lou … Lou. Go! Go!" Freisleben was still on the mound. He threw to first, trying to get Brock to stick close to the bag.

Freisleben finally threw home, and Brock took off. Handily, he stole No. 893, setting a new major league baseball record. The game came to a halt as the crowd rose for a standing ovation. The base was dug up and ceremoniously presented to Brock. It was a historic moment, and even Freisleben, who'd given away the stolen base, remarked, "I kind of got goosebumps," according to the Post-Dispatch.

It is also interesting to note that Brock's stealing pace was much quicker than Cobb's. Cobb spread his 892 stolen bases out over 24 seasons and 3,033 games. Brock, however, broke the record in only 2,376 games over 17 seasons. Brock also picked up the pace as he got older and was 38 years old when he broke Cobb's record. The record stood until 1997, when Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's ended the season with 1,231.

Brock's feat, however, was soon forgotten after he fell into a slump during the 1978 season, hitting only .221.

Lou Brock - Career Statistics [next] [back] Lou Brock - Came Alive With The Cardinals

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or

Vote down Vote up

over 4 years ago

mine

Vote down Vote up

over 9 years ago

I watched Brock when I was a kid in St. Louis and he made the steal a major part of the game. Brock kicked butt on the base paths and Gibson kicked butt on the mound. Those guys knew how to play aggressive baseball on both defense and offense.