13 Steps: Cardinal great Lou Brock on the art of stealing

Lou Brock takes part in a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the victory before the start of a baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(BaseballStL) -- “It depends on how the runner slides,” Lou Brock was saying about the number of steps to steal second base. “If he uses the crossover step like I did and slides feet first, it’s 13 steps.”Brock, the Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinal and once all-time leading base stealer, spoke easily about his specialty and his thoughts on head-first slides at the 1964 reunion of the World Series champions Monday. Many credit the Hall of Famer with being the catalyst that got the Cards on track that year as he batted .348 in 103 games for the eventual champions, coming over in a then-controversial trade with the Cubs.“I always stressed the jump rather than the speed,” Brock said. “I never really knew how fast I ran. I always tried to get a good jump, using the crossover step (left foot over right when starting, throwing the left shoulder and hip into the step.) Brock, 74, looked as trim and fit Monday as he did when he roamed the outfield for the Cardinals in that glorious season.“Whenever we get (the 1964 team) together, it’s a contest to see who can tell the best stories,” he laughed. “There might be six different stories going on at once and so I have to decide which one I want to listen to, and which ones are true. Pretty much, when Gibson is telling stories though, everyone is listening. It’s like we’re kids again. And I think that’s one of the differences between then and now. I’m not sure the guys get along like we did. There’s not as much camaraderie. “Brock said that except for the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, he hasn’t seen as much specialized base stealing, in part because it is not stressed as an important part of the game any longer. “I see a lot of good base running, but not a lot of base stealers. But I did see a play the other day in a game I was watching that I haven’t seen much of. I saw a baseman drop his knee to block a base when a man was sliding headfirst. I think that’s only the second or third time in 20 years I’ve seen a baseman do that. It’s a great way to defeat the head first slide.“If you jam your shoulder into the baseman’s knee, you could come away with a broken shoulder or a torn rotator cuff. You really need the fielder’s permission to slide head first. And so far, fielders have been doing that, stepping aside to apply what might be called a gentleman’s tag. If fielders start dropping their knees and blocking the base, that could be the end of the head-first slide.”

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