Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Brock's Daring Almost Singlehandedly Won '68 Series

When the Tigers and the Cardinals got it on for the world's championship of baseball in 1968, there was a St. Louis player who terrorized the Detroiters with his jackrabbit speed and his Wallenda-like daring on the basepaths.

My, was Lou Brock a disruptive force in that '68 Series!

Brock, the Cards' left fielder, went 13-for-28 in the Series (.464 BA), including three doubles, a triple, and two homeruns. He also scored six runs. A strong case could have been made for Series MVP, even in a losing effort. But Mickey Lolich, with his three complete game victories, sealed that deal.

But it wasn't Brock's hitting, which was amazing enough, that made him such a thorn in the Tigers' sides. It was his ability to do something that is hardly ever attempted in postseason play anymore.

Lou Brock could steal a base or two.

He stole seven of them, in fact, in that '68 World Series. He was caught twice -- once when Lolich picked him off and Brock was thrown out by Norm Cash. Not only did Brock attempt nine steals in the seven games, he dared Tigers pitchers to pick him off. Brock took leads off first base that were obscene in their distance from the bag. Everytime I watch film reels of that Series, I'm taken by the length of Brock's leads. It seemed like he was halfway to second base. And there were few who got a better jump off a pitcher's delivery than Lou Brock. Never was it more true than in the 1968 Fall Classic.

In the regular season in '68, Brock stole 62 bases. He was caught 12 times. That's an amazing success rate of almost 84 percent. In World Series play (1964, 1967, 1968), Brock stole 14 bases and was caught twice -- an 86 percent success rate. Brock stole 14 bases in 21 Series games because he was always on base. He went 34-for-87 (.391 BA) with an OBA of .424 in October.

But back to the point. How many stolen base attempts did you see this postseason, including games not involving the Tigers? Certainly not as many, combined, as Lou Brock accounted for all by himself in 1968 alone (nine). And I don't mean hit-and-run plays that turn into stolen base attempts. I'm talking straight steals, folks.

It must be a lost art, the stealing of bases in the postseason. And it's not like there are hordes of rifle-armed catchers in baseball at the moment. Taking Detroit's own Pudge Rodriguez out of the equation, there aren't too many catchers who should strike fear into would-be base stealers.

If any baseball manager should care to do so, I would suggest he obtain a copy of the '68 World Series and watch how much chaos Lou Brock created because of his feats of daring. Of course, Brock himself was a special player -- a freak of a base stealer. But it doesn't have to be a Brock on the base paths to create some havoc.

I wonder why teams don't try swiping bases more often. But, SHHH -- don't tell the Cardinals, even though the testament to what I'm saying is in the form of a statue in front of new Busch Stadium. Lou Brock's statue.

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