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The Top 20 Cub HR Of All Time - #20 Lou Brock 6/17/1962

Here's the only clue I'll give you to the contents of the rest of this list: this home run, hit by Lou Brock at the Polo Grounds in New York on June 17, 1962, is the only one of the 20 hit by a Cub on the road.

In a small way, this home run might have been what eventually wound up making the Cubs give up on Brock and trading him to the Cardinals.

Brock, who had a decent rookie year in 1962 after a September callup in 1961 (he hit .263/.319/.412), in between George Altman in right, and Billy Williams (the NL Rookie of the Year in 1961) in left. Both Altman and Williams were, of course, power hitters, and the team had two other power hitters in Ernie Banks and Ron Santo.

Also remember that the 1962 team had virtually no direction -- it was the second year of the ridiculous College of Coaches scheme, and El Tappe, Lou Klein and Charlie Metro rotated in and out of "leading" this ballclub, and I put "leading" in quotes because the '62 Cubs lost 103 games -- a club record and the first time they had ever lost 100 games in a season -- and finished behind expansion Houston, in 9th place.

Meanwhile, these coaches were, apparently, trying to mold Brock into a power hitter in the Williams/Altman mode -- after all, he hit lefthanded and was African-American, right?

I know that sounds ridiculous today, but in the less-enlightened days of the early 1960's, some baseball men may have thought that way.

Anyway, Brock came into that June 17, 1962 game in New York against the Mets hitting a decent .263/.320/.452, with 6 HR and 18 RBI. He had 15 doubles and 8 stolen bases in 59 games, a pace which would have given him 40 doubles and about 22 SB over a full season. Perspective: the previous year, Richie Ashburn had led the Cubs in SB. With seven. The Cubs hadn't yet joined the rest of baseball, which was beginning to rediscover the SB after decades of decline.

The Polo Grounds in New York, having lain fallow for four years after the departure of the Giants for California, was reopened in 1962 as the home of the Mets. Its odd horseshoe shape was better suited for football games.

Immediately, it began to host record events. Jimmy Breslin, in his book about the early years of the Mets, "The Amazing Mets", wrote:

They lost innumerable games by one run, the sign of a bad team. They lost innumerable games by ten runs, the sign of a terrible team. They lost at home, they lost on the road. They lost by day, they lost by night. They lost in ways that stagger the imagination.

On June 17, 1962, in the first inning of the first game of a doubleheader, Brock, after two walks and a Ron Santo triple, smacked an Al Jackson pitch into the right-center field bleachers, his seventh of the season. In nearly fifty years of baseball games in New York, no one had ever reached that area (Joe Adcock, playing for the Milwaukee Braves, had hit one to the left-center field bleachers on April 29, 1953).

Nothing's ever been documented about this before, but it's my feeling that Cubs coaches, seeing this tremendous blast by Brock, began to try even harder to mold him into a power hitter, something he was ill-suited to be. He hit only two home runs the rest of 1962 -- probably trying too hard -- only nine in 1963 (with an increased strikeout total), and two in 52 games in 1964 before the ill-fated trade to St. Louis on June 15.

So Brock's memorable blast might have hastened his departure from the Cubs. If only they had been more in tune with modern baseball, which was beginning to emphasize speed over power in the 1960's.

Finally, in a weird confluence of events that you only seem to see in baseball, the very next day after Brock's HR -- Monday, June 18, 1962 -- Henry Aaron hit a HR to almost the same spot in the CF bleachers at the Polo Grounds, off the Mets' Jay Hook. Those were the only two times that feat was accomplished.