On June 15, 1964, the Chicago Cubs traded Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, Don Landrum and Bobby Shantz. Brock would end up leading the Cards to the World Series and eventually ended up in the Hall of Fame while Broglio came up with a dead arm and would be out of baseball by 1966. In the years since then the trade has taken on mythical status as the worst trade of all time. Many revisionists use this trade to illustrate the failure of the 1969 team to win and to make John Holland the whipping boy for the failures of the franchise during the period in general.  
However, I feel the need to take another look at this trade. For one, I have doubts as to how really great a player Brock was. For another, we need to look at why the Cubs traded Brock to begin with. And finally, I have doubts as to whether Brock would or could have been the savior of that 1969 team and whether he would have even made it to 1969 as a Cub. 
In order to put the trade into its true context, we need to look back at what kind of team the Cubs had on June 15, 1964. 1963 had been a year that the team had taken a huge jump. If you remember, thanks to Phil Wrigleys College of Coaches, the team had stumbled for 2 years. Wrigley realized that the experiment was a failure and made Bob Kennedy "Head" Coach, even though he was essentially the manager. Under Kennedy, the team won 82 games, finishing at or over .500 for the first time since 1952. The 1963 team was made up of mostly young players, like Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Kenny Hubbs, Dick Ellsworth, Cal Koonce and Lou Brock. Ellsworth won 22 games and seemed like an ace for many years. It looked like the team was ready to take the next step. However, everything changed on February 15, 1964, when young 2nd Baseman Kenny Hubbs was tragically killed in a plane crash. Although Hubbs had only hit .235, he was an outstanding defensive player that could still have become a Ryne Sandberg type hitter. Hubbs' death cast a huge pall over the coming season, not to mention put a gaping hole in the Cub infield. Then as the season began, Ellsworth struggled. Veteran Larry Jackson would step to win 24 games and underrated Bob Buhl would win 15, but it was clear they needed another starter. For a brief period, rookie Sterling Slaughter looked like he might be the answer, shutting out Milwaukee in late May, following that with a second win the next time out. But Slaughter didnt keep it up and was out of the rotation by July. Meanwhile, Brock was struggling to hit above .250. 
So, the Cubs approached the Cardinals about a possible deal. The Cards were floundering much like the Cubs, in spite of a solid starting staff led by Bob Gibson, ex-Whiz Kid Curt Simmons and young Ray Sadecki. At this point, Ernie Broglio was pretty much a forth starter. From what I understand, the Cubs wanted Sadecki. It seemed at the time like a good move. Sadecki looked like a real world beater. Though Sadecki would never quite fulfill  his potential, in 1964 he had his career ahead of him. Quite naturally, the Cards were reluctant to part with him. With several other youngsters like Steve Carlton and Nellie Briles still a year away, Bing Devine seemed determined to build a strong young pitching staff. So the Cubs were forced to go after Broglio. At the time, it didnt seem like a bad idea. Broglio had won 22 games in 1961 and 18 the previous year. But a look at his numbers at the time should have raised red flags. I dont know if Holland asked for an examination, but he obviously didnt do enough to make sure he was getting a healthy pitcher. As for Brock, here was a struggling young player, who years later would suggest that the College of Coaches was responsible for hindering his development. Holland would not trade one of his prime young players, so Brock was the obvious choice. Now the question is, would Brock ever had developed with the Cubs? Playing for Cardinals was a completely different situation. They put him in the lineup leading off and in a position he could handle and he had no baggage like in Chicago. The Cubs tried him in right field, where he really did not have the arm, then in center field, where in spite of his speed, he was incapable to covering the ground the team needed. And there was no way they would have moved Billy Williams, who was just coming into his own in left field. I have heard it suggested that the Cubs should have moved Williams anyway. My question is, why would you move an All Star who is very comfortable in his position to bring in a player who has never shown any consistency at the plate and has had problems defensively? That would make no sense. 
Lets say the Cubs decided to hold on to Brock. What next? Now its possible Brock couldve shown progress in 1964 under Kennedy. Its hard to say for sure. The team was not as good as the year before and Im guessing Kennedy probaly would have given other young players more time in the outfield. Its my gut feeling that if Brock hadnt shown any progress with Kennedy by then, he probaly never would. Considering that Kennedy would return in 1965, chances are so would Brocks inconsistent play.  Of course, even if Brock had shown enough progress to stick around under Durocher, there are questions as to whether he couldve thrived under Leo the Lip. Leo loved guys who played hard and if he suspected you were playing below your abilities, you were in trouble. Would Leo even had waited. Im sure he wouldve been aware of Brocks numbers and its hard to say if he wouldve been patient with him. Then, theres the question of what position Brock wouldve played. He mightve played center for Leo, but if he had problems he would probaly be out. On the other hand, Pete Reiser was on Leos coaching staff and perhaps working with him, Lou mightve survived. Its all speculation. 
Then theres the issue of how much this trade really hurt the Cubs. Aside from the Hall of Fame career that the Cubs apperently tossed away, theres Ernie Broglio. Broglio turned out to have a lame arm and was useless to the Cubs. What it mostly meant was that the Cubs were still short a starter. They tried in vain to find another starter. Ex-World Series hero Lew Burdette was brought in, but was clearly over the hill. World Series no hit pitcher Don Larsen was given a shot. He pitched even less than the journeyman he was most of his career. Future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts probaly brought in some fans to Wrigley Field, but was several years past his prime. Eventually they did find a starter, but by that time the team had been transformed by the presence of Leo Durocher. But in the end, was this trade the most devastating ever? It seems unlikely. Truly bad trades are the ones that really gut a team talent-wise and that was not the case here. When Durocher came in, he worked with John Holland to remake the team which would enjoy great success, if not any championships. It was a trade that didnt work out for the Cubs, it happens. The Cubs have made some great trades that brought them Hall of Famers, including Hollands best trade to get Fergie Jenkins. Its time to get over the belief that Brock for Broglio was the worst trade in the history of humanity. They lost Lou Brock, who became a Hall of Famer, but lets be honest, its not the same as trading Babe Ruth. 
Thats my opinion. Perhaps you agree with it, perhaps you dont. I would be interested in hearing other opinions. Feel free to leave a comment. And I will have a poll that is related to thie topic soon. Until next time!