As a fan of the St Louis Cardinals for the last 50 years, I have become attached to many players. I have mourned the passing of guys I saw play like Darryl Kyle. Oscar Taveras, and of course legends Like Stan and the Old Redhead. However me, like Cardinal fans young and old were hit with a double whammy in 2020. A whammy that left my heart and I am sure many others with a huge hole Of course I am talking about the deaths of Lou Brock Sept 05, 2020 and Bob Gibson Oct 02, 2020. Having watched them both play on TV and in person. They were my top two favorite Cardinals in the 70's. Watching Lou hit and run the bases was always a huge thrill whether in person or on TV. Then there was the STEEL eyes of Gibson glaring at the batter. The TV would pull in tight you could almost read his thoughts "that plate is mine!" The feeling I got as a young boy watching both practice their craft was excitement and awe. Brock, when he would make his move to steal I mean you were waiting for that first step and and then he was seemingly halfway to 2B. I would see Gibson on the mound and would swear he was much larger than his 6"1' frame. These are the images that will remember for all time.
Most every baseball fan has heard the one of the worst trades in baseball was Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio The actual Trade was Brock, Jack Spring RHP and Paul Toth RHP for Broglio RHP, Doug Clemens OF/PH, and Bobby Shantz LHP. Broglio for the cards in 1963 pitched 250 IP with and 18-8 record and a 2.99 ERA. in his 2 and a half years with Chicago he managed only 213.1 IP 7-19 with a 5.40 record. IN that same Time Frame Brock slashed .286/.333/.437 31 HRs, 115 RBIs, 137 SB. None of the other 4 players added much help to their new teams. Brock would last 16 total years in St Louis. So to say the Cardinals got the better end of the deal is an understatement. A story I remember hearing from Brock in an interview about the deal went like this Brock said he was called to the manager's office and was told that he was being traded to ST Louis. Evidently somehow Billy Williams and others found out before Brock. While he was in the Office, Williams left a note on his locker that said Sorry to part ways kid, but we will invite you up for the World Series. Brock said "As it turned out I invited HIM to the World Series." Another story I remember was he was talking about base stealing. He was asked who was the toughest he stole against. He said for a while it was Jerry Grote "Then I got into his head. I was at the ballpark and we passed each other on the field I said hi Jerry. He didn't answer, I said a little louder Gote! he still kept walking. Then I just screamed GROTE! He turned so fast he dropped his glove. After that I had him". Lou was part of 2 World Series teams, He was a 6 time All-Star, led the National League in Stolen Bases 8 times became the single season record 1974 with 118 later broken in 1982 by Ricky Henderson and set the career mark of 938 later broken by again Ricky Henderson in 1991. In 1979 he became the (then) 14th member of the 3,000 hit club. After his retirement from baseball, He opened up a florists shop. He worked with youth, was on the board of directors of YTB International. in 2015 Brock had his Left leg amputated due to a diabetic condition. He survived a cancer scare in 2017 He was a regular at Spring training helping with the younger players and Outfielders. Brock was inducted in to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. In his 16 years of being a Cardinal there was never a better ambassador for the game of baseball or the city of St Louis.
Bob Gibson one of the most feared pitchers of his time. Signed as a Free Agent by the Cardinals in 1957 it took him 2 years to break into the Major Leagues 17 years, 251 wins, 3884 innings pitched and 3117 Strikeouts later he left the field for the last time. Most noted for his 1968 campaign when he went 22-9 in 34 games. Throwing 304 innings for an ERA of 1.12 with 13 Shutouts and 268 Strikeouts. The mound was lowered the next year The league claiming the height gave pitchers too much of an advanatge. He was touted for his blistering fastball but also had a pretty mean curve as well. For a short period of time Gibson not only played for St. Louis but the Harlem Globetrotters as well. It was because he was such a good athlete that he was utilized as a pinch hitter. Though most of Gibson's Stature as a pitcher was developed in the 1960s he has some success in the 70's August 14th, 1971 he pitched a No-Hitter Vs the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Who went on to be world Champion). Gibson's reputation as a no nonsense hard thrower was exemplified by this comment from Dusty Baker -"(Hank Aaron told me) 'Don't dig in against Bob Gibson, he'll knock you down. He'd knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don't stare at him, don't smile at him, don't talk to him. He doesn't like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don't run too slow, don't run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don't charge the mound, because he's a Gold Glove boxer.' I'm like, 'Damn, what about my 17-game hitting streak?' That was the night it ended." Or this comment by Jim RayHart - "Between games, [Willie] Mays came over to me and said, 'Now, in the second game, you're going up against Bob Gibson.' I only half-listened to what he was saying, figuring it didn't make much difference. So I walked up to the plate the first time and started digging a little hole with my back foot...No sooner did I start digging that hole than I hear Willie screaming from the dugout: 'Noooooo!' Well, the first pitch came inside. No harm done, though. So I dug in again. The next thing I knew, there was a loud crack and my left shoulder was broken. I should have listened to Willie." After Baseball Gibson was a major investor in a radio station, owned a restaurant. Then worked as a coach for Joe Torre with the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves And the St Louis He was the attitude coach in NY and the pitching coach in Atlanta and St Louis. In 1981 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of fame. The one thing that was tougher than Gibson was cancer.
Many players are missed by the teams fans when they leave the game. Some are revered for years after there days are over and thier fans are sadded when the pass on. But very few are so lucky to be missed and honored By EVERY baseball fan when they are gone. Both Lou Brock and Bob Gibson are two of those players.
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