Subscribe for 99¢

From the minute he arrived in a trade from Chicago and put on a St. Louis uniform in 1964, Lou Brock stole his way into the hearts of Cardinals fans and ultimately into the record book.

His National League record 938 steals and 118 in a single season and his total of 3,023 career hits earned him a lifetime pass to Cooperstown, N.Y., where he is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

A couple of weeks ago, Brock, 76, entered an area hospital and the legs that helped him gain immortality won't be quite the same anymore.

An infection relative to a diabetic condition has necessitated the amputation of Brock's left leg just below the knee. But the Brock family has sent a message that the Base Burglar is recovering well and, according to a source, Brock already is taking steps with a walker and will be fitted for a prosthetic device.

Brock was visited in the hospital last weekend by former teammate Bob Gibson, who was able to make Brock laugh with one of his remarks, and former manager Red Schoendienst, another Hall of Famer who also lifted Brock's morale.

Gibson, who turned 80 on Monday, said he talked with Brock for 15 to 20 minutes before Brock became tired.

 "You can't be in too many good spirits when you're in the hospital," said Gibson. But Gibson said he was hopeful that Brock would be able to meet this new challenge which is certainly greater than any he faced on the field.

Brock is said to be an active participant in therapy although he, jokingly, has dubbed his therapist, "Mike Tyson," in reference to the former heavyweight boxing champion's aggressive approach in the ring.

The lefthanded-hitting Brock, acquired for pitcher Ernie Broglio from the Cubs, batted .391 with four homers and 10 stolen bases while playing in 21 World Series games for the Cardinals in 1964, 1967 and 1968.

Since his retirement in 1979, Brock has been a regular at Cardinals spring training camp in Jupiter, Fla., where he is a good-will ambassador and instructor.

Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.