PITTSBURGH (AP) — Dick Groat, a two-sport star who went from All-American guard in basketball to a brief stint in the NBA to ultimately an All-Star shortstop and the 1960 National League MVP while playing baseball for his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, has died. He was 92.
Groat’s family said in a statement that he died Thursday at UMPC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh due to complications from a stroke.
Groat, who was from the Swissvale neighborhood just east of Pittsburgh’s downtown, starred at Duke in basketball and baseball in the early 1950s, earning All-American honors in both. His No. 10 jersey hangs inside Cameron Indoor Stadium after the program retired his number following the end of his senior season in 1952.
Groat attempted to play both baseball and basketball professionally, signing with the Pirates and being drafted by the Fort Wayne Pistons of the then-fledgling NBA within weeks of each other in 1952.
While Groat said basketball was his first love, a stint in the military during the mid-1950s redirected the arc of his athletic career.
After leaving the service, Pirates general manager Branch Rickey persuaded Groat to focus on baseball, a decision that turned into a lengthy 14-year career split between Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Groat made the All-Star team in five seasons and led the majors in hitting in 1960 when he batted .325.
That season ended with Groat earning NL MVP honors for a Pirates team that upset the New York Yankees to win the World Series.
Groat finished with 2,138 career hits during a major league career that spanned from 1952-67. The Pirates announced last week that Groat would be inducted into the team’s recently established Hall of Fame later this summer.
A member of the college basketball and college baseball Halls of Fame, Groat was a two-time All-American guard at Duke in the 1950s and remains the second-leading scorer in school history, averaging 23.0 points for the Blue Devils. He was taken third overall by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1952 NBA draft.
Groat played 26 games for the Pistons, averaging 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists. His basketball career, however, ended after he enlisted in the Army in 1953. He spent nearly two years in the service and when he was discharged, Rickey essentially threatened to take away Groat’s signing bonus if he didn’t turn his attention to baseball.
Groat relented and became one of the most consistent shortstops of his era. He played in eight All-Star games (there were two games a season for a brief period in the 1950s and 1960s) and during Pittsburgh’s improbable run to a World Series in 1960, it was Groat and not future baseball Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski who spearheaded the Pirates’ unlikely rise from perennial also-ran to championship club.