Bernie Miklasz on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's website is doing his list of the five greatest living Cardinals. Today's entry is Lou Brock, and Miklasz gives him a pretty full hagiography (yesterday's was on Red Schoendienst, which was even more in the style of the Lives of the Saints). It's worth watching.
Anyway, it got me to remembering. True story. In 1967 my Dad was running the PTA fall dinner for our grade school and had arranged six months in advance for the Cardinals to send a player to give a talk and show a movie of the team's highlights for the year. The team said they would send Lou Brock.
Months later, Brock led the Cardinals to the 1967 World Series championship and was the World Series MVP. The date for the annual PTA dinner was 2-3 days after the World Series ended, and Brock had been on Johnny Carson, the Today show, etc. My dad frantically called the team office to see if Brock would still be able to make the dinner. He was told not to worry. Lou would be there.
Now, we lived in South St. Louis County (Lindbergh High area), and our grade school was basically all white. My dad told the story for decades afterwards... Brock showed up, not just on time, but early, gave a terrific talk, mostly on the value of education, then stayed to sign every autograph and take every picture that anyone asked him to. My dad said he finally had to tell everyone to go home so he could let Brock leave, because otherwise Lou would still be there, signing autographs and talking with young kids. The only black man in a sea of white faces.
And, remember, this was 1967... the fall after the summer of the Detroit riots, etc. I think America has made tremendous strides in race relations since then (although sometimes the media won't admit it) and I can't help thinking that men like Brock who were role models to generations of kids like me had a big hand in that, albeit a quiet hand. If you were 8 years old in 1967 like me, it would have been pretty hard not to be in favor of civil rights when you had posters of Lou Brock and Bob Gibson on your wall, and when the first book you ever read all the way through was From Ghetto to Glory.
A very gracious man. And, interestingly enough, a math major in college. You don't see that much among anymore among major leaguers, because they don't necessarily need a fall-back career plan since they're making millions.