Lou Brock will be remembered for being part of one the most lopsided trades of all time in Major League Baseball history, the 1964 deal that sent him from the Chicago Cubs as part of a package to the St. Louis Cardinals for veteran pitcher Ernie Broglio. Brock will be remembered for his 3,023 hits — 2,713 of them for the Cardinals. His having the second-most stolen bases in history and his postseason greatness are things that won’t just be remembered in St. Louis or in Cooperstown, where you will find his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On top of all of that, I will remember Lou Brock as one of the kindest, sweetest, gentlest men I have ever met.
In 1991, when Rickey Henderson broke Brock’s career record for stolen bases, the two became close friends, and together they wrote a short speech that Rickey would read, on the field, immediately after he eclipsed the milestone. Rickey would keep the speech in the pocket of his uniform. But when Henderson stole base No. 939 to set the new standard, he was understandably caught up in the moment. He pulled the third-base bag out of the ground, raised it above his head and announced to the crowd at Oakland Coliseum, “Today, I am the greatest of all time.”
Brock could only smile and say, “No, Rickey, the speech?! What about the speech?” He saw Henderson after the game. Brock smiled again and said, “Rickey told me, ‘Sorry, I forgot.'”
Brock told that story to my son, Jeff, and me in the golf pro shop in Cooperstown 10 years later. My son was 10 years old. Lou Brock talked to us, mostly to my son, for 20 minutes, not just about baseball — mostly about life.
“You have a great smile,” he told Jeff. “Let everyone see it. A great smile can disarm people like nothing else. Smile as much as you can. We don’t smile enough in the world today.”
Today is a sad day. But every time I have ever thought of, and will ever think of, Lou Brock, I will smile.