Lou Brock Works Out With St. Cloud Rox – On ‘This Date In Central Minnesota History’
ST. CLOUD – April 27th, 1961 – St. Cloud Rox player Lou Brock works out for the first time at Municipal Stadium.
Louis Clark Brock was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, on June 18, 1939. Mrs. Paralee Brock, or Momma, moved infant Lou along with his eight siblings to the small town of Collinston, Louisisana. “Until I was twelve I went to school in a shack with no running water, with one room, and that one teacher and sixty kids strung out over six grades.” With no boyhood interest in playing baseball, Lou turned his attention to other endeavors like firing spitballs at the little girl sitting in front of him at school.
In order to disciple the uncouth youth, his teacher ordered little Lou to do a book report on baseball in front of the class. “She told me to look up four or five ballplayers – Jackie Robinson, Campanella, Newcombe, Joe DiMaggio, and Stand Musial, I can still remember them.” As a fourth grader, Lou was impressed by what he discovered about all of the baseball players, especially since they got eight dollars a day in meal money. That moment was the first time that he was drawn to baseball as a way of life for his own future.
After graduating high school, Lou Brock attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on an academic scholarship. After he lost this scholarship, he saw baseball as his last option. He watched the Southern team play from the sidelines, trying to get up the courage to ask the coach for a chance to play. One day he fainted while practicing on the sidelines with another kid. When the coach walked up, he offered Lou five practice swings as a gesture of goodwill. It was the break Lou had been looking for, but for someone who had just fainted, having his future career on the line put him in a tight spot. Without hesitating, Lou hit the first pitch that came at him, and the ball sailed higher and higher until it soared out of the park. After hitting three of the five as home runs, the coach gave Lou an athletic scholarship on the spot so that he could remain at Southern University to play baseball.
After the long trip north, Lou was welcomed by a cold breath of the Minnesotan springtime air on April 15, 1961, when he arrived in St. Cloud. For the next five months, Lou would forego his favorite grits, but it was a small sacrifice compared to the professional training and technique that he would engage in firsthand playing for the St. Cloud Rox in the Northern League.
On Wednesday, April 26th, 1961, the St. Cloud Sports and Recreation committee of the Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Welcome Rox” dinner. At the banquet, each player was introduced to the audience. It was a special moment of recognition for the entire team. The following morning, brand new home and road uniforms were issued to each player. That afternoon, on April 27th, 1961, Lou Brock worked out for the first time at the Municipal Stadium, home to the St. Cloud Rox. In his new uniform, Brock, number 20, stepped up to the home plate at his first at bat, and hit one out of the park.
Lou Brock would be named the Northern League Rookie of the Year for the Rox as he led the league in several offensive categories including hits (181), total bases (268), and average (.361). Ironically, he did not lead the league in stolen bases. Lou went directly from the St. Cloud outfield to the Chicago Cubs at the end of the ’61 season. He had an outstanding 19 year career in the majors, spent mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals. He led the National League in stolen bases 8 times, including a single season record of 118 in 1974. Brock was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985, the first year of eligibility.
Thanks to the Stearns History Museum, and their intern Timothy James, for their help with our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History”.