The 1963 Cubs had unexpectedly finished over .500 at 82-80, their first winning season in 17 years.
So in 1964, when they were muddling around .500 in early June, general manager John Holland decided to make a move to bolster the pitching staff.
Ernie Broglio was 28 years old, had won 18 games in ‘63 (back when pitcher wins meant something). He had posted a 2.99 ERA that year and was coming off four seasons (1960-63) when he had finished third in Cy Young voting and posted 17.8 bWAR.
The Cubs thought they had a steal when they acquired Broglio, reliever Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens from the Cardinals for pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth and an outfielder who never fulfilled his promise as a Cub, some guy named Lou Brock.
The Cubs were thrilled with the deal. Ron Santo was quoted in the Tribune: “I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve been with this club four years now, and I’ve never had the feeling that we could go all the way. With our pitching staff now, we can win the pennant.” Most baseball analysts at the time thought the same.
Well, you know how this story ends. Broglio developed elbow trouble — something that could likely have been repaired by surgical techniques developed a decade or two later — and was out of baseball after 1966. Brock, immediately turned loose on the basepaths, stole 43 bases that year (only six Cubs have stolen that many or more bases in the 55 years since!) and the Cardinals won the World Series. He finished with 3,023 hits (still 28th all-time) and 938 stolen bases, second on the all-time list only to Rickey Henderson.
In an interview with this newspaper five years ago, Broglio laughed and said, “It’s always nice to talk about that trade. I don’t mind. At least they remember who I am.”
The party of the second part, Brock, said Wednesday night, “We talked about it. He was always gracious when he talked about it.
“(It) felt so ridiculous when he was traded. He had so much going for him,” said Brock, who just turned 80. “And you had a .240 hitter (Brock was hitting 251) coming the other way and it sure didn’t look like much _ until the day after I got here.”
Brock and Broglio became friends later in life and often did autograph signings together. After his baseball career he returned to his hometown in San Jose, eventually investing in a winery.
When I sent the news of Broglio’s passing to Mike Bojanowski, he sent me this note, with which I agree:
As is hinted in the article linked to, I am convinced that Brock would not have become a HOFer had he remained with the Cubs. The Cardinals saw immediately what he could become, the Cubs never did. Another example of the sheer cluelessness that organization exhibited in those years.