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Dick Groat

Dick Groat

Position(s):
SS, 3B, 1B, 2B
Born:
November 4, 1930
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 11"
Weight:
180 lbs
Major League Debut:
6-19-1952 with PIT
Allstar Selections:
1960 LG, 1960 MVP

Dick Groat was always described as a player who wasn’t exactly a 5-tool player.  He wasn’t that fast, he didn’t have a powerful arm, so on and so forth.  What the observers of Groat always did say in his corner was he had a great desire and phenomenal natural instincts. 

Groat proves that it’s not always the A+ talents that make great professional athletes.  If it were, Ryan Leaf would be a Hall of Famer and Joe Montana would be forgotten as nothing more than a good college quarterback.  Its what makes scouting a very difficult venture as some are so enamored with a player’s speed and physical attributes that they sometimes forget to look at what’s inside.

Whatever it was, Groat’s instinct and desire or Natural Athletic prowess, Richard Morrow Groat not only ended his career as one of the fine shortstop’s of his era, but one of the finest college basketball players ever to grace the landscape.
 
The Wilkinsburg, PA native, a town located only a few miles outside of Pittsburgh, went to Duke University after his High School career, and not only was an all-American baseball player his junior and senior seasons, but one of the finest basketball players ever produced at one of the most premiere basketball institutions in the land.

He not only set an all-time NCAA record for points in a season with 831 in his junior season, but was named the 1951 college player of the year, the basketball equivalent of the Heisman, an All-American in both 1951 and 1952 and was the first Duke player to have his number retired when they put his number 10 away for good.

As good as he was in basketball, it was his baseball talent that made many major league scout drool.  When the Bucs Branch Rickey finally signed him, he made the exclamation that now the club could win the pennant.

Rickey went on to say in his evaluation that while he was only an average runner with a good arm, he loved his attitude and his desire to win.  Branch felt that he was superior to any shortstop the team had during the lean years of the early 50’s and didn’t see the need to waste his time in the minors.
 
The Mahatma, as Rickey was known, was truly a man of his word and Groat never did spend a day in the minors, coming to the Big Club immediately where he hit .284 in 95 games.

Following his rookie season, Groat went to participate in his other passion, basketball.  He played with the Fort Wayne Pistons of the NBL (Fort Wayne became the Detroit Pistons and the NBL became the NBA) during the 1952-53 season and scored 11.9 points a game that season, at a time when scoring double digits was very impressive.
    
Dick went into the Army for two years following the season where he worked with an engineering construction crew that built airways and highways.
    
He came back to the team in 1955 and by 1957 had broken the .300 plateau when he hit .315 for the young talented club. 1958 proved to be the season where the Pittsburgh Pirates finally got over the hump and became a contender after several years in the cellar.  Groat celebrated by hitting .300 right on the nose.  The team’s new manager Danny Murtaugh, who had taken over the club towards the end of the ’57 campaign, said of Groat, that he had never seen any player that had more determination than the Pirates 28-year old shortstop.

After making his first all-star appearance in 1959, Dick entered the new decade about to be the unabashed leader of perhaps the most miraculous team in the annuls of this proud franchise, the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Before the season, Pirates GM Joe L Brown was tinkering with the idea of dealing his shortstop for a right fielder by the name of Roger Maris.  Murtaugh stepped in and helped stop the deal.  Although Maris went on to win the AL MVP in ’60 and became a legend the following season with his 61 homers, Groat became perhaps the single most important cog in the Pirate championship machinery, winning his first batting title with a .325 mark.
    
During the season, Groat not only became the first senior circuit player since Connie Ryan to go 6 for 6 in a game on May 13th against the Braves, but he constantly came through with one clutch hit after another.
    
Unfortunately his spectacular season came crashing to an end on September 6th, when the Braves Lou Burdette fractured his wrist with a pitch.  Groat came back on the final weekend of the season and was able to nip the Dodgers Norm Larker for the batting title by two points.  For his efforts, Dick was named the National Leagues Most Valuable Player, an award that irked his teammate Roberto Clemente, not by the fact he won the award, by because Roberto finished only 8th in the voting.   In the World Series, the MVP, hit only .214, but had a clutch RBI single in the 5 run eighth inning comeback.
  
Groat slipped to .275 the following season but had a fine 1962 campaign with a .294 average.  With everything going well for Dick, as he was a star with his hometown team, the bottom fell out by November of ’62 when Brown dealt the popular infielder to the Cards for pitcher Don Cardwell and infielder Julio Gotay.  The fans didn’t seem to understand the deal and it angered Groat to the point that he would have no formal dealings with the club, despite the fact he still lived in the are after he retired, until his ailing wife talked him into going to an event for the ’60 club in 1990.
    
The Duke grad, took his anger out on the field as he led the NL in doubles for St Louis in 1963 and hit .319.  He finished second only to the Dodgers Sandy Koufax in the senior circuits MVP voting.
    
1964 proved to be Dick’s last solid season as he hit .292 while being selected to play in his 5th and final all-star game.  Groat participated in a second fall classic as St Louis captured the NL pennant.  Although he had another disappointing series, hitting only .192, the Cards defeated the Yanks in seven games, giving Groat his second World Championship.
    
He labored for three more seasons with the Cards, Phillies and Giants, before retiring in 1967 after 14 major league campaigns.
    
Dick moved back to Western Pennsylvania after he retired and ran his spectacular golf course, Champion Lakes, located near historic Ligonier, PA.  Groat has also spent his time announcing Duquesne University Basketball for a time and is currently the knowledgeable color man for the University of Pittsburgh basketball.

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Tagged:
1960 World Series, 1964 World Series, All Star, Branch Rickey, Dick Groat, Duke University, NL MVP 1960, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Shortstop, St. Louis Cardinals

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