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Fast on his feet

By Gordon Engelhardt - Evansville Courier & Press
Sunday, August 19, 2007

Upon joining the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964, Lou Brock made a memorable impression on Red Schoendienst in more ways than one.

Sent from the Chicago Cubs to the Cardinals on June 15, 1964 — the trading deadline — Brock hopped on a plane to Houston, where the Cardinals were playing the Colt .45s. He got a police escort to Houston's old mosquito-infested stadium (before they became the Astros and the Astrodome was built).

Along with former St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog, Brock and Schoendienst appeared at "Striking Out Prostate Cancer," the Evansville Cancer Center's sixth annual prostate awareness event on Saturday at the Evansville Marriott.

Brock said he carried all of his equipment with him onto the field that fateful day in Houston: his bat, glove and duffel bag. He struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, quickly becoming fodder for his new teammates.

"Next, they'll probably trade (first baseman) Bill White for a bag of peanuts," Brock said they joked.

He changed that impression, dramatically, however, sparking the Cardinals to the 1964 and '67 championships. Brock was later voted into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Schoendienst, who played for the Cardinals' 1964 World Series title team, was also inducted into the Hall.

While Schoendienst is a prostate cancer survivor, Brock has a high PSA (prostate specific antigen), which means his prostate must be monitored carefully. He is in a higher risk group because of his African-American heritage. African-American men are twice as likely to die from this disease.

Brock said too many men like to think they're macho and delay trips to the doctor, which is a big mistake.

"It's not from a lack of knowledge, it's a rejection of knowledge," Brock said. "There is a lot of awareness on the athletic field."

Unlike many men, athletes are continually checked by doctors to ensure they're in good playing shape.

Brock became the major leagues' all-time leader in stolen bases with 938; his record was broken by Rickey Henderson in 1991. But Herzog points out that many people are mistaken when they think of Brock exclusively as a base stealer.

"Lou had 3,000 hits. You've got to talk about what a great hitter he was," Herzog said. "That's the first fallacy."

As the number of Hispanic players in the majors continues to rise, the number of African-American players has dropped significantly over the years. Brock said he didn't necessarily think African-Americans thought baseball was boring, despite reports to the contrary.

He said basketball and football are more glamorized than baseball in grade school and young athletes act accordingly.

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