Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of Hall of Famer Lou Brock.The longtime Cardinals star is among baseball's most prolific base-stealers,
Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of Hall of Famer Lou Brock.
The longtime Cardinals star is among baseball's most prolific base-stealers, known for breaking Ty Cobb's long-standing single-season stolen base record with 118 in 1974. Brock led the National League in steals eight times and totaled 50 or more in 12 of his 19 seasons.
Brock's professional career began in 1960, when tried out for and signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent. He needed just one season in the Minors before his promotion to the big leagues, making his debut with Chicago on Sept. 10, 1961, against the Phillies at Wrigley Field.
Brock's Chicago tenure was short-lived, however, as he was dealt to the Cardinals in a six-player deal in June 1964. It was in St. Louis that Brock's career blossomed. He would go on to make six All-Star appearances and win two World Series with the franchise.
Four months after his arrival, Brock helped the Cardinals defeat the Yankees in the 1964 World Series. He batted .300 (9-for-30) in the Fall Classic and finished 10th in NL Most Valuable Player voting that season.
Brock solidified his reputation as one of the game's most feared baserunners by pacing the NL in steals (74) for the first time in 1966, a feat he would replicate seven more times during the next eight seasons.
Brock's Cardinals returned to the World Series in 1967. He hit .414 and stole seven bases -- a World Series record that still stands -- as St. Louis bested Boston in seven games. The Cardinals repeated as NL champs the following season but lost to the Tigers in seven games. Brock excelled in the series, batting .464/.516/.857 and matching his record with seven steals in the final playoff appearances of his career.
The Cardinals wouldn't return to the World Series again during his career, Brock racked up a number of individual accolades during the next 11 seasons, notably Cobb's single-season stolen base record that stood for nearly 60 years. In 1974, Brock did what many thought impossible, stealing 118 bases to far exceed Cobb's feat. He finished second behind Steve Garvey in NL MVP voting that season.
Brock knocked down another Cobb record in 1977, claiming the top spot on MLB's all-time stolen bases list with his his 893rd career steal. Brock finished his career with 938, but Rickey Henderson would eventually surpass both the single-season (130 in 1982) and all-time record (1,406). Brock still remains atop the NL's all-time list.
Brock retired after the 1979 season, ending his 19-year career on a high note by batting .304 at age 40, reaching the 3,000-hit milestone and winning NL Comeback Player of the Year honors. He finished with a .293 career average, 3,023 hits, 1,610 runs scored and 938 steals and was elected a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1985.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.