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'Base Burglar' Of St. Louis Cardinals, Lou Brock, Dies At 81

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Lou Brock was a two-time World Series champion. He was a Hall of Famer outfielder. But most of all, he is remembered as a thief. He stole bases. The man known as the base burglar died yesterday in St. Louis, where he played most of his career. It was with the Cardinals that he stole his 893rd base.

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JACK BUCK: And this is it, folks. Brock has now stolen 893.

CHANG: It broke a record that had stood for over 70 years. During his career, Lou Brock also broke 3,000 hits, and he led the Cardinals to World Series titles in 1964 and 1967.

TIM KURKJIAN: He had tremendous power, but mostly, he was just a stolen-base machine. And he always went in hard, and he always went in feet first.

CHANG: That's Tim Kurkjian. He's a baseball writer and analyst for ESPN. He says even though Brock was a force to be reckoned with on the baseball field, he was also...

KURKJIAN: Maybe the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man I think I've ever met.

CHANG: He remembers running into Brock some years ago with his son. And he was touched that the Hall of Famer took 20 minutes out of his day to talk baseball and life with a 10-year-old kid. Brock was also a quick wit. The only sure way to keep him from stealing, he once told Sports Illustrated, was - don't let me reach first base.

Lou Brock grew up the son of sharecroppers in segregated Louisiana. He dreamt of becoming a baseball player from a young age.

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LOU BROCK: The first time I heard about the Hall of Fame, Jackie Robinson had just broke the color barrier, and I was a 9-year-old boy growing up in a Southern town.

CHANG: That's Brock speaking at his own 1985 Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Brock spent most of his life connected to baseball - as a player, fan and commentator. He said the game opened up his world.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROCK: Baseball could arouse and comfort me because in identifying with it, I felt free and alive.

CHANG: Lou Brock died yesterday. He was 81 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.