ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - I'm writing this through tears, because I miss my friend. Our friend.
That's the thing... we all felt a connection to Lou Brock because he embraced us. One of the greatest players in the history of baseball loved us for... us.
But he dealt with his health issues late in his life (multiple myeloma and a leg amputation) like he did with everything, with a wink and a smile.
"Lou was the happiest Hall of Fame member I've ever known," said Dick Zitzmann, his longtime friend and agent. "His wonderful life simply could not be duplicated. A warm, humble and gentle man. He will be missed by all."
Brock recorded 3,023 hits in his 19-year career. He stole 938 bases, breaking Ty Cobb's major league record in 1977. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.
"Lou Brock was one of the most revered members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization and one of the very best to wear the Birds on the Bat," said Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr. "Lou was a Hall of Fame player, a great coach, an insightful broadcaster and a wonderful mentor to countless generations of Cardinals players, coaches and members of the front office. He was an ambassador of the game around the country and a fan favorite who connected with millions of baseball fans across multiple generations. He will be deeply missed and forever remembered."
Brock, a Louisiana native born in El Dorado, Arkansas, listened to Cardinals games as a kid and saw a dream come true in 1964.
That year, he was traded to St. Louis for pitcher Ernie Broglio, a swap with the Cubs that is considered the greatest deal in Cardinals history. The Cardinals won the World Series in '64... and again in 1967, when Brock hit .414, scored 8 runs and stole seven bases, the latter of which was a World Series record. The Cardinals won the pennant again in 1968, with Brock leading the league in doubles, triples and stolen bases.
On September 10, 1974 (see audio above), Brock tied -- and then broke -- Maury Wills' single-season stolen base record with Nos. 104 and 105.
Before his retirement in 1979, the Cardinals held a day at Busch Stadium in his honor.
"First of all, I'd like to say thank you very much," Brock said as he took the microphone. "Mr. Busch... my many friends. And the wonderful fans of St. Louis."
"Especially," he said, "the left field bleachers."
The fans in that section went wild. They roared. And then the entire stadium drowned them out with their famous "Louuuuuuuuuuuuu" chant.
For all the love he gave his fans, Brock always received it right back, from that day in '79 to his last trip around the track behind the Clydesdales.
Accompanied by his wife, Jackie (both of them ordained ministers), Brock was a fixture in the community, raising scholarship funds for students who couldn't afford school. He gave his time to countless organizations and signed autographs for anyone who came his way.
In many of our charity golf tournaments together, the weather would be brutally hot, but Brock would insist on taking pictures with each participant.
He once showed up on stage at a private event at Grant's Farm after undergoing a lengthy dental procedure. Clearly drained from the day, Brock lit up when the lights turned on. He had the crowd in his hand, laughing and engaged in his storytelling. When the show was over, he went home and slept.
Toughest Cardinal ever.
And at the same time, Lou Brock was the most tender human being, an excellent listener. He gave people his time, but saved the best for the people closest to him. He adored children, especially. He often told stories of the things kids would do and say, and could never get through his recap without fighting off his own laughter. He loved their youth and wonder and it filled him with energy.
Lou absolutely loved the game, loved a good baseball story; he'd adjust himself in his seat to get in a good position to discuss, just as he was always ready to steal, hit, make a play in the outfield. He talked about the art of stealing, seeing the crease on a pitcher's uniform as a sign of when to take off. He described the ball arriving at second base -- at the same time as the runner and infielder -- as one of the impactful collisions in the game. He passed along advice to numerous players, coaches and managers about the secrets of baserunning.
That's how I'd like to think of Lou right now, as sad and numbing as today is... that he is smiling and glowing at the beautiful tributes to his life.
No. 20 is finally free of pain, but he is forever with us to heal ours.