By identifying with baseball, I first felt free and alive. I felt my spirit lifted.
—Lou Brock, 1985
Time and place.
Sometimes, life boils down to little more than that.
Other things matter, of course. If you possess talent, in many cases, you'll catch a break. Work incredibly hard, and your odds increase.
Still, time and place are so very important.
Take, for example, the great Lou Brock.
Long before he stole 938 bases, collected 3,023 hits and became a baseball treasure in St. Louis, Lou Brock was a poor kid who hitched a ride from Collinston, a tiny farm town in north Louisiana, to Southern University.
Even without a scholarship or food money, Brock was determined to stay there. He chased fly balls for the baseball team, attempting to show off his speed, all but begging for a walk-on spot — until, one day, his malnourished body faltered.
Brock passed out.
Southern coach Bob Lee took mercy on him. He gave Brock five swings to make an impression.
Five swings for a lifetime.
Brock made the most of them, hitting two homers. Lee offered him a scholarship.
In 1959, Brock led the Jaguars to the NAIA championship — the only national title for a historically black college at any level.
A year later, he was discovered by Buck O'Neil, who was then working as a scout for the Chicago Cubs.
Time and place.
Two years into his Major League Baseball career, Brock was headed nowhere fast, with a .260 average, 258 strikeouts and a funny-looking pop-up slide.
On June 15, 1964, the Cubs gave up on him, trading Brock to St. Louis for an average right-hander named Ernie Broglio.
It is one of the most lopsided deals in sports history.
In a baseball-loving town, Brock blossomed into of the game's most dangerous weapons — ever.
In '64, after the trade, he hit .348 and stole 33 bases, helping the Cardinalss capture the National League pennant and topple the Yankees in the World Series.
It only got better from there.
Brock led the NL in steals eight times, batted over .300 eight times, and scored more than 100 runs in seven seasons, paving the way for other dynamos like Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines.
John Curtis, a former pitcher and teammate, once called Brock "the greatest single offensive force I've seen."
He retired with more steals than anyone in baseball history, a record he kept until Henderson broke it in 1991.
Brock, who played 19 major league seasons, is already in the National Baseball Hall of Fame; he was inducted in 1985.
Twenty-seven years later, on Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, he will go into the College Baseball Hall of Fame, his career at Southern finally and properly recognized.
The time for that was long overdue. But his place in the game is secure.
And his story is worth commemorating.