San Francisco Giants Feature With Tony the Tiger Hayes: Forgotten Giants Player Dick Groat in 1967; He Was a Giant?

June 4, 2018

MLB, San Jose Barracuda

Photo credit: 1960sbaseballblog.blogspot.com

By: Tony “Le Tigre” Hayes

Forgotten Giants Player
Dick Groat – SS – 1967 – # 20

He Was a Giant?
The understated Dick Groat wasn’t blessed with the panache of Deion Sanders, the Madison Avenue push of Bo Jackson or the Gold Medal winning cache of Jim Thorpe.

But Groat–briefly a Giant in 1967–was on par with any other multi-sport star American has produced.

He earned MVP honors in MLB (Pirates) and Player of the Year and All-American honors in College Basketball (Duke), yet he rarely gets included among the top players who flittered between sports depending on the seasonal calendar.

Why Was He a Giant?
As a Phillie, Groat collected his career hit 2,000 in 1966, but by 1996, he was literally on his last legs.

The years of constant running and jumping finally caught up to Groat and he would spend two weeks that spring hospitalized after his ankles swelled to three times their normal size.

But even this severe case of cellulitis could not spoil Groat’s competitive spirit and he was game when acquired by San Francisco in mid-1967 to back up the infield and pinch hit.

Before & After
One of the best athletes ever out of the Pittsburgh area, Groat accepted a dual baseball/basketball scholarship to Duke University. Under the guidance of Coach Red Auerbach, Groat was an immediate success in the hardwood.

Twice, he was selected as an All-American and was named National Player of the Year in 1952 when he averaged 25.2 points per game for the Blue Devils. Twice, he also garnered All-American honors for Duke’s baseball team.

Initially, Groat pursued pro careers in both sports and played the 1952-53 season as a sharpshooting guard with the NBA’s Ft. Wayne Pistons, averaging 12 points per game.

Groat opted to focus on baseball for his hometown Pirates and batted .284 as a rookie in 1952 without spending a day in the minors.

In 1960, Groat–a shortstop by trade–was named NL MVP, after winning the batting crown and leading the Bucs to their first World Series title in 35 years.

Later, Groat was dealt to the Cardinals and was a key contributor to their 1964 World Championship club.

He Wasn’t Hal Lanier. But…
The crew-cutted Groat arrived in San Francisco in the midst of the Summer of Love.

Playing time was scant for the 36 -year -old but, he had his moments in the Fog.

In back-to-back wins vs. the visiting Phillies (7/28/67-7/29/67), Groat poked a pair of hits as starting shortstop in each contest.

In 34 games with SF, Groat would bat .171 with four RBIs.

He retired following the 1967 campaign.

Giant Footprint
As a member of the Pirates in 1957, Groat combined to record the last putout of the New York Giants’ final home game–and last game ever–before the club’s move to San Francisco (9/29/57).

After Don Mueller flew out and Willie Mays grounded out for the first two outs of the bottom of the ninth, Dusty Rhodes punched a ground ball to Groat, who in turn fired to first baseman Frank Thomas to conclude the 9-1 Pittsburgh win and 74 seasons of New York Giants baseball.

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