BROCK SOLID

ASU'S BASEBALL WIZARD LOVES TO PLAY HARDBALL. THIS YEAR, HE'S HAD TO.

He terms it "reversing negative momentum."
"It may be my nature to think negative thoughts," Brock says, "though I've tried to think as many good thoughts about this situation as I can. I know there are a ton of people out there worse off than me, even now. But cancer is such an unpredictable, insidious disease. I've been scared not so much about dying as about how I'm going to handle life."
@rule:
@body:A coach is an actor. You might want to be angry, but it might not be when they need anger. Or the other way around. If you lose your cool for a second, then your anger serves as a slap in the face for them. That's fine. But you can't ever lose sight of the fact that you're an actor and the ball club is your audience. You have to play them just right.

--Coach Brock to an assistant

Jim Brock lived for his first 19 years in a home at Fourth Street and Indian School in Phoenix. Jimmy--as his father called him--was one of two children born to William and Elsie Brock.

Bill Brock was a permanently disabled World War I veteran who lost a lung to tuberculosis and was bedridden much of the time. He had met Elsie, a nurse, while undergoing medical treatment at Fort Whipple in Prescott.

Despite Bill Brock's poor health, his son says, he was a natural salesman with a strong personality. He dominated his docile wife and ruled his roost with an iron hand.

"Mom was probably the nicest person who ever lived, though she used the switch with the best of them," Jim Brock recalls. "She was totally dominated by Dad. He probably had two votes when he stepped into the booth."
Bill Brock kept food on the table with a small disability pension and by renting out three apartments behind his home. The Brocks ingrained in Jim and his sister, Tommy Lou, a work ethic that rules their lives today.

But sports were also vital in Bill Brock's scheme. When Jimmy was about 12, he switched from fast-pitch softball to baseball at his dad's request. He was a catcher at first, but after the team's pitcher moved away, Brock stepped to the mound.

Despite his failing health, Bill Brock ran the Valley's American Legion baseball program for years. He funded much of it through his "Keep Good Boys Good Club," which requested $19.95 from locals to sponsor a player.

The elder Brock's written pitch was a classic: He claimed no boy had ever gotten in trouble while playing Legion ball. That sounded great, and the league flourished under his stewardship.

When Jimmy was in his early teens, Bill Brock stuck up a small, wooden frame in the backyard on Fourth Street. He then hung a tarp over the frame.

Jimmy's first task after he got home from school was to throw three or four dozen balls into the tarp. Bill Brock would watch through a window, propped up in his bed.

Jimmy Brock hated to pitch--Far too much pressure," he says. But he developed a serviceable curve ball and he could throw strikes. By the time he graduated from North High in 1954, Brock was one of the best pitchers in Arizona.

But his social skills lagged behind his athletic prowess. He was a shy youth with an embarrassing stutter he couldn't overcome. He was also a so-so student whose love of learning wouldn't surface for a few years.

"One thing I did know about was baseball," Brock told the North High baseball team at an outdoor banquet last week; it's the 40th anniversary of his senior year at the school. "I knew I wouldn't be happy unless I was a coach for my whole life. In my senior year, a teacher--she'd be 140 by now--told me there were a lot of things I could do in my life, but college was not one of them. But I knew that if I wanted to coach at a school, I'd have to finish college."
His stutter kept Brock mute much of the time with strangers. But he wasn't a fool. He was smitten with a North High girl named Pat Futrell. She was two years younger than he, the Kentucky-born daughter of a carpenter and part-time minister who lived near North.

Pat was a catch, an effervescent, blue-eyed beauty who captained the cheerleading squad.

Although she didn't attend college until after her two children were born, Pat, as a youngster, would regularly go to the public library at Central and McDowell and check out a pile of books. Much later, her peers selected her as class valedictorian at Mesa Community College. It was a step on her way to earning a master's degree at the age of 35 and becoming a business professor at Scottsdale Community College.

Brock's stutter didn't faze her, after he finally succeeded in asking her out for their first date.

"The telephone was impossible for me," Brock says. "Her dad answered, and it took me ten minutes to get out my name. Stuttering was a terrible thing--the hopelessness of hearing, 'You won't do anything with your life.' It's very lonely. But I could talk to Pat."
The summer after Brock's high school graduation, he officially coached baseball for the first time. Before then, he had been unofficial coach of his dad's Legion teams. And in his senior year at North, he had advised the team's new coach, a nonbaseball man, about the game's nuances.

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