BROCK SOLID

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

Brock had to decide that summer whether he wanted to pitch in one league or coach in another.

He coached.
Brock attended ASU for about a week in the fall of 1954, but soon transferred to Phoenix College. In 1956, Brock returned to ASU to complete his undergraduate work. That May, he and Pat were married. They honeymooned--no kidding--at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, where the high school baseball championship was in full swing.

Brock earned his bachelor's degree in physical education in 1958. He wanted badly to move right into coaching on a high school level. But jobs weren't easy to come by, so Brock did substitute teaching and scraped by.

He and Pat had a new reason to improve their lot in life--baby Cathi, born to the couple in 1957.

Meanwhile, he continued to coach Kerr's Sporting Goods, the American Legion team he had formally taken over from his dad in 1956. (Bill Brock died ten years later.) The young Brock was a bulldog as a coach, both bark and bite. His stutter wasn't an issue with his players. It would suddenly disappear when he was angry with them, which was often.

A 1959 column by Phoenix Gazette columnist Jim Eaton could have been written today: "Some call Brock an intense student of baseball, a slave driver, but his training program produces victories . . . from the workouts emerge teams noted for their daring on the base paths, their well-executed bunt plays and their desire to win."

Brock took a job in Brawley, California, for the 1960-61 school year, the only nine months of his life he hasn't lived in the Valley. That much time in the desert town was enough.

The Brocks returned to Phoenix, and that summer he again coached Kerr's Sporting Goods to the state championship. Then he led the Legion team to the national title at Hastings, Nebraska.

In 1962, 26-year-old Brock's dream came true when Mesa High School hired him as its varsity baseball coach. Two years after that, he became Mesa Extension College's first head baseball coach. (An umpire kicked him out of his first game there, setting the tone for untold ejections that followed.)

Brock was a relentless taskmaster on the ball field, and a holy terror when his team lost. He didn't demand his players' love, just their respect and obedience. Most of the time, he got it.

His teams played hard and well for him or suffered the consequences. It's one thing for you to boot a ball, Brock would tell his players. That happens, though it had better not happen too often or you'll be sitting with me on the bench. But make mental mistakes and, God forbid, you don't hustle, you're gonna catch my wrath and you'll be running til you drop.

But then, as now, Brock was more than just a blood-and-guts type.
"He's always had a reputation of going against the laws of baseball," says his ASU pitching coach, Bill Kinneberg. "It's amazing how he'll make a certain call and it will work. It's happened way too much to be called luck at this point. He has such a keen sense of evaluation during a ball game."
After the 1971 baseball season, Brock took a sabbatical from Mesa to intern under then-ASU athletic director Fred Miller. He was on his way to a doctorate in educational administration. Brock claims he was considering leaving coaching behind and becoming a high school principal.

"The operative word is 'pressure,'" Brock says. "I do not thrive under it, I hate it and I tended to strike out verbally against everyone around me when I was under it. I knew how to coach and how to win, but I found myself hating the job."
Then the head baseball job at the University of Arizona opened up. Brock applied, and was the second choice behind Jerry Kindall, who still runs the show in Tucson. (The two rivals have a friendly relationship, but it gives Brock delicious pleasure to note he's beaten Kindall about two-thirds of the time since they started butting heads.)

"Pat and I were driving back from Tucson after I didn't get the job," Brock says. "No one says anything for 30 miles, then Pat pipes up, 'Things work out for the best. You don't know what the future holds.' I snap back with, 'If you can't say something intelligent, don't say anything.'"
Two days later, ASU baseball coach Bobby Winkles resigned to take a job with the California Angels.

"People I trusted assured me I'd never get the job at ASU," he said.
But he did.
Replacing Winkles was akin to someone taking Lute Olson's place as basketball coach at the University of Arizona.

Winkles was a longtime winner who had charmed the locals for years. Brock was a homeboy, yes, but he had neither the r‚sum‚ nor the folksy charm of his predecessor.

The transition was ugly, the whispers that Brock was in over his head starting even before the first game of the 1972 season.

A cushy schedule and a topnotch returning class enabled Brock to win all but six games that first year and to keep most of the vultures at bay. But the whispers turned into catcalls when the Devils finished--gasp--second at the College World Series.

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