During a season in which he led the National League in runs scored (126) and stolen bases (64), it was power _ not speed _ that produced two of the most satisfying moments for Lou Brock.
Brock hit just seven home runs for the 1971 Cardinals, but two of those overcame ninth-inning deficits, tying the score and forcing extra innings.
Forty-five years later, Jedd Gyorko duplicated Brock’s home run feats. In 2016, Gyorko became the first Cardinals batter with two ninth-inning, score-tying home runs in a season since Brock in 1971, according to researcher Tom Orf.
Gyorko, a right-handed batter, hit a ninth-inning solo home run off Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen, tying the score at 3-3 on July 22, 2016, at St. Louis. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in 16 innings. Boxscore
A month later, Gyorko hit a two-run home run in the ninth off Phillies reliever Jeanmar Gomez, tying the score at 3-3 on Aug. 19, 2016, at Philadelphia. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in 11 innings. Boxscore
Brock, a left-handed batter, produced 200 hits in 1971. Though he batted better that season versus right-handers (.328) than he did against left-handers (.287), Brock would hit five of his seven home runs off southpaws. The first of those came against a former Cardinals teammate, Joe Hoerner of the Phillies, on May 5, 1971.
Almost three months later, on July 31, 1971, the Phillies held a 4-2 lead over the Cardinals entering the ninth inning at Philadelphia.
Ted Sizemore, leading off the inning, drew a walk from Phillies reliever Ken Reynolds. When Reynolds fell behind in the count 2-and-0 to Brock, Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi lifted the right-hander and replaced him with Hoerner.
Brock worked the count to 3-and-1, then sliced a home run over the left-field fence, tying the score at 4-4. The Phillies won, 5-4, in 16 innings. Boxscore
The outcome turned out better for the Cardinals when, a month later, Brock slugged another ninth-inning home run.
On Aug. 29, 1971, the Reds led the Cardinals, 3-2, entering the bottom of the ninth at St. Louis.
Don Gullett, 20, the Reds’ left-handed starter, was going strong in the ninth. When Gullett retired the first two batters of the inning, Brock represented the Cardinals’ last hope.
For much of the season, Brock had been using the bats of utility player Dick Schofield.
“I started using Schofield’s bats in the third game of the season,” Brock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brock explained to the Associated Press that he preferred the 36-ounce model used by Schofield. “I’ve only used my own bat, a light one, about a dozen times this season,” Brock said.
However, when the Cardinals traded Schofield to the Brewers in July 1971, he took most of his bats with him.
During the weekend series with the Reds, Brock uncovered a leftover Schofield bat at Busch Stadium and used it when he faced Gullett in the first inning.
Brock flied out to center field. “I got under the pitch,” Brock said. “I was swinging behind it.”
Brock’s teammates retrieved the bat and hid it. “They figured Gullett was throwing too hard for me to be using it,” Brock said.
Before Brock went out to face Gullett with two outs in the ninth, Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson presented Brock with the Schofield bat.
Asked by the Carbondale (Ill.) Southern Illinoisan whether he was trying to hit a home run off Gullett with the heavier bat, Brock replied, “Sure, I was swinging for it. With two outs in the last inning and one run down, you rather subconsciously do.”
Brock took Gullett’s first pitch, a fastball, for a strike. “Then he gave me the same pitch again,” Brock said.
Brock swung and laced the ball down the left-field line. It carried over the fence, about 10 feet from the foul pole, for a home run that tied the score at 3-3. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in the 11th when Clay Carroll walked Sizemore with the bases loaded. Boxscore
For his career, Brock batted .357 (5-for-14 with two home runs) versus Hoerner and .322 (19-for-59 with three home runs) against Gullett.
Previously: Why Lou Brock got into Hall of Fame on first try