(Photo Credit: Jeff Curry, Getty Images)
On Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals faced off against the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day at Busch Stadium. Thanks to top pitching from Michael Wacha, and a relentless offense, the Cardinals won 10-1. But for the 45 minutes prior to the game, a vast variety of ceremonies took place at the stadium celebrating the illustrious history of the Cardinals franchise.
And no moment, whether before the game, during it, or after, was as big or emotional as Lou Brock‘s moment.
It was six months ago that the Hall of Famer, now 76, had his left leg below the knee amputated due to an diabetes-related infection. He has been dealing with Type-2 diabetes for 15 years. After the amputation, Brock spent three months in the hospital after the surgery in order to be able to learn to walk again.
Heading into Monday’s festivities, he admitted that there were nerves settling in about his balance.
“I thought I could participate in the parade, but then they asked about throwing out the first pitch. Now that’s a challenge,” said Brock, who was introduced during a motorcade parade. “I went out to practice the balance beforehand. I had to learn all over again. It was a brand-new process.”
The plan was to have him throw out the first pitch, and it was a moment long in the minds of one Cardinals executive.
“I was actually thinking about Mr. Brock this morning as I was driving in,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “Opening Days and throwing out the first pitch always has a special meaning to whoever is a part of that. But for him, I have to imagine that this might be the most special day he’s ever gotten to experience. To go through what he’s been through and know that he’s going to be a part of this, says a lot and means a lot.”
With former teammate and Cardinals’ Hall of Famer Ted Simmons behind the plate ready to catch the ball, Brock made his way to the halfway point between the mound and plate, with tens of thousands of fans, even Brewers fans, on their feet cheering.
Emotions running wild. Hearts pounding. And even some tears shedding.
One of the most beloved players in Cardinals history, and one of the most respected in baseball history threw a perfect pitch, not judged by the placement in the “strike zone”, but by the journey that Brock has dealt with.
Even with all the emotions, laughs were still shared through it all.
“Somebody said — I don’t know who it was — they said, ‘Finally, Lou, after all these years… you hit the cutoff man,’ ” Brock said.
He said he actually almost had to learn how to throw a ball all over again. But another former teammate of his… and a close friend, gave him some advice.
The person who helped him?
Who else but Bob Gibson.
“He did say, ‘Flip your wrist, and I don’t want to see you using your body and falling down,’ ” Brock said. “I said: ‘That’s why you’re here. You’re supposed to pick me up.’ ”
Not only was it a touching moment for Brock, Cardinals fans, and his fellow friends, but for his family as well, bringing in a sense of an encouraging future ahead.
“To see him do that just put me at the top of the mountain,” Jackie Brock said. “So it’s just real evidence how he has progressed, and we’re looking forward to what’s next.”
While what happened during the game on Monday was a sight to behold… what happened before the game was truly the highlight of the day.