This one hurts.
As reported by Jennifer Langosch, Cardinals Hall of Famer Lou Brock has been diagnosed with bone cancer.
While no prognosis has been released, Brock is 77 years old, and recently had part of his leg amputated during a long hospital stint while battling diabetes. His health battles are a reminder that nothing is forever, and we should appreciate our heroes and loves ones as much as possible while we can.
We’ve all dealt with cancer. We’ve all felt that pain. It never diminishes.
For St. Louis, and the Cardinals family, Lou Brock stands as one of the most cherished representatives of the franchise and the city. Hell, his name is Louis Clark Brock, reminiscent of the famous explorers who started their legendary journey in St. Louis just after the Louisiana Purchase as commissioned by Thomas Jefferson, who celebrates a birthday today. For Lou, everything seems to cosmically connect.
Born in Cardinal country in Louisiana, and a fan of the highly integrated Dodgers, Lou nevertheless spent his days listening to Harry Carey call Cardinals games. Before officially signing with the Cubs, he tried out for the Cardinals first. Once he became a Cub, well, he wasn’t very good. There’s not much a better way to be a Cardinal without actually putting on the uniform than that.
Brock arrived on this planet just after Stan Musial was signed by the Cardinals, he became one just after Stan left. It was the passing of the torch that no one expected. The famous Brock for Broglio trade. The deal considered an absolute steal for the Cubs by all of baseball. June 15th, 1964 the Cardinals were 3 games below .500, 7 games out, and stuck in 8th place. They’d lost 5 in a row. There wasn’t much talk of the Cardinals winning a championship that year. Of course, they did.
The next day Brock played his 1st game as a Cardinal. He got on 4 times, including a triple and a stolen base, and the Cardinals crushed the Colt 45’s 7-1. It was the birth of a new era, one of which would include 2 championships and 3 pennants, all featuring Brock at his best.
One could easily write a book on Lou Brock’s statistical achievements while a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, certainly nothing can ever be written about him without mentioning his 3,000 career hits, or his 118 stolen bases at age 35 – almost proof that he could be whatever kind of player the Cardinals needed – But statistically all you need to know about Lou is that he played in 3 World Series, amassed 92 total at bats, and here was his line: .391/.424/.655/1.079. Oh, and he had 14 stolen bases.
On the biggest stage, under the most pressure, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson were an unimaginable 1-2 force. Thank God they played on our side.
His highest OPS against any team? By far it was the Chicago Cubs. .856. In over 1,000 plate appearances. Talk about the definition of a true Cardinal.
Eras pass. The 60s disappeared, and success began to elude the team. Fans said goodbye to Carlton. They said goodbye to Flood, to Cepeda, to Torre. In 1975 they watched Bob Gibson get rocked and then retire. The losses started piling up.
But fans still got to watch Lou Brock. They got to watch him represent the franchise with his 3,000 hit. They watched him break the stolen base record. At age 40 in 1979 after he seemed all washed up, they watched him hit over .300 one last time, and win the Comeback Player of the Year.
And then, Lou retired right as Whitey Herzog took over and began another exciting era. Lou gave fans something to cheer about for over 15 years, and went out as a Cardinal. In 1985 he entered the Hall of Fame donning an StL on his hat.
He gets criticism retrospectively. New metrics aren’t as kind to Lou as current models for evaluating players hold different levels of esteem for some of the bygone heroes. Jesse Haines, Jim Bottomley, Red Schoendienst, and yes Lou Brock are now sometimes argued as not really having the credentials to be in the Hall.
In his time Lou Brock was a legend. The Cardinals no doubt would have 2 fewer championships without him. His numbers stand the test of time, his impact stands the test of time, and now as we find ourselves arguing about the role scandals, personal politics, and steroids play in evaluating one’s hall credentials, Lou Brock’s character more than stands the test of time.
Louis Clark. The bridge between Stan and Whitey. The Champion. Our Hall of Famer. Our citizen. You’ve given us more than we deserve. This is a tribute. This is not, in some way, a prelude to an obituary. I couldn’t bear to write that.
Lou Brock, we pray for your health.