Dick Groat A Rare Star Of Both Baseball & Basketball Dies At 92

Dick Groat Who Set Duke Basketball Records & Was National League MVP In 1960 Is Dead

Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Dick Groat hitting during the 1960 World Series. photo: Marvin Newman

In 1952, when Dick Groat was 21-years-old, Duke University’s sports publicity department published an entire pamphlet heralding his achievements.

In 1950-51 Groat put up 831 points with 261 free points shattering records at Duke, the Big 5 (North Carolina schools) and the Southern Conference.

Groat, who was five feet eleven, drew accolades from teammates and rivals. Duke basketball coach Harold Bradley said “Groat is the kind of player you dream of. If you tell him he is doing something wrong, he goes out and practices it until he does it perfectly. He’s a team player as well as a leading scorer.

Virginia’s athletic director Gus Tebell exclaimed that “Groat is the finest basketball player I’ve ever seen in my 27 years of coaching…an All-American on anybody’s team.”

What made Groat even more exceptional was that the Swissvale, PA native excelled in baseball as well. Groat made his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1952 and was the third overall pick by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the NBA draft. He is one of only 13 people to play professionally in MLB and the NBA.

Dick Groat died at the age of 92 at UPMC Presbyterian Medical Center in Pittsburgh April 27, 2023.

Over 14 baseball seasons Groat hit .286 with 2,138 career hits.

After making his MLB debut in 1952 Groat did  two years of military service before returning to the Pirates in 1955. A good fielding shortstop, Groat hit over .300 four times, culminating in 1960 by winning the batting championship with a .325 average, winning the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award and helping the Pirates to triumph in the World Series.

Pittsburgh, PA – Pirate captain and shortstop Dick Groat holds a bat displaying the average that captured the National League batting championship for him and led Pittsburgh to its first pennant in 33 years. Groat who just returned to action after a pitched ball fractured his wrist, edged out Norm Larker of the Dodgers in game (10/2) for the coveted title. photo United Press International Telephoto 10-2-1960

After Groat’s baseball playing career ended in 1967 due to chronic arthritis in his ankle, he turned down a minor league managing job. The only managing job Groat said he would be interested in would be for the Pirates, because it would be close to his home. He applied but didn’t get the job.

Groat was never boastful of his accomplishments. He told Milt Richman of UPI in 1968, “I have no room to beef. I played on two world championship clubs and was picked on eight all-star teams. As a ballplayer I had none of the things going for me that the scouts always look for. I didn’t have speed, a particularly strong arm or great power.”

Groat joined the Jessop Steel Company as a national account executive after the 1967 baseball season.  In 1970 Groat returned to basketball becoming Vice President of the American Basketball Association’s short-lived Pittsburgh Condors. Later Groat became a radio analyst for the University of Pittsburgh from 1979 – 2019.

Pitt broadcaster Bill Hillgrove told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “As great of a sports legend as Dick was, he was a better human being. I think his humility stood out above everything. If anybody should’ve been carried away with himself, it was Dick Groat. He’s obviously, to me, the best athlete our state has ever produced. As many great athletes as Pennsylvania has produced, none played two sports at the highest level, except Dick. He was a very special friend. I lost a big brother.”

Groat summed up his life this way in an interview with the Post-Gazette in 2021. “The Lord was good to me. He gave me a good pair of legs, a good set of hands and arms. I was also blessed with a great mother and father and family. I’ve been awfully fortunate to do the things I have done.”

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