Card of the Moment #69
May 27th, 2011 by slangon

Today’s Card of the Moment comes to us from the color yellow. And the letter Arrrrrr.

1954 Topps #43 Dick Groat

Richard Morrow “Dick” Groat played for 14 seasons in the Major Leagues. He spent the majority of that time playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but also had tours of duty with the Cardinals, Phillies and Giants.

Groat was born in Wilkinsburg, PA, just 8 miles outside of where he would spend the first 9 years of his career. He spent his college years at Duke, where he was All-American in both baseball and basketball. His number 10 was the first ever retired by the Blue Devils basketball team. Randomly, his roommate at Duke was Richard Nixon’s brother. A few days after he graduated, he was signed to Pirates by Branch Rickey. He was also being scouted by the Cardinals and the Giants, but he was a son of Pittsburgh, so he signed with the Bucs.

He bypassed the minors and joined the Pirates in mid-June, playing his first game on June 18, 1952 against the Giants. He had 1 pinch hit at-bat in which he grounded out to the pitcher. After that rough start, he seemed to find his groove and finished up batting .284 on the year and was 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting behind Hoyt Wilhelm and Joe Black. After the ’52 season, he spent some time pursuing his basketball career, playing guard for the Fort Wayne Pistons (who incidentally had a pretty kick-ass logo) during the 1952-53 season. He also had a short stint in the army.

By 1955, Dick was back with the Pirates, playing his first full season at shortstop. He batting second in the order behind leadoff hitter Bill Virdon, who recalled Grot as being quite adept at the hit and run. I do find it sort of strange that I have this 1954 card of Dick when he wasn’t playing the Majors at that point. He also apparently had a 1953 Topps card as well, even though he wasn’t playing that year either.

On September 29, 1957, Dick had the honor of throwing out a New York Giant for the final time ever. Bob Friend was putting the finishing touches on a complete game 6 hitter and got Giants left fielder Dusty Rhodes to ground out to short. The Pirates trounced New York 9-1 that day.

The stretch of years between 1955 and 1959 saw Groat hitting well, averaging over .300 in both 1957 an 1958. He also was always among League leaders in many defensive categories during this stretch and made his first All-Star team in 1959. During the offseason, the GM’s of the Pirates and Kansas City Athletics had agreed to a trade of Groat for Roger Maris. Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh did not want to trade his start shortstop and the deal was cancelled.

Ironically, both Maris and Groat would go on to win the M.V.P. Award in their respective leagues the following year. Dick was the first Pirate to win the award since Paul Waner did it way back in 1927. He also won the N.L. batting title in 1960, the first pirate to do that since another Pittsburgh shortstop accomplished the feat in 1911. 1960 seems to have been a banner year for old Dick. MVP? Check. Batting title? Check. World Series Championship over the highly favored Yankees? Check.

Groat had several more productive years in Pittsburgh until the Pirates GM, Joe Brown (who was the same GM who tried to trade him a few years earlier) decided he wanted to shore up the teams pitching staff and sent Dick packing to the Cardinals. Groat was pretty hurt by the trade. He was, after all a Pittsburgh boy and had hoped to stay with the team until he was done playing and perhaps coach or manage after he retired. He cut all contact with the Pirates until 1990, when they held a reunion of the 1960 Championship team.

On a complete side note, I never quite understood why someone named Richard would voluntarily choose to be called “Dick”. I mean, Richard is one of those names that has a whole slew of nickname possibilities. Rich. Rick. Richie. Ricky. The Rickster. Rico. Why would you tell people “No, please, call me Dick”?

One Response to “Card of the Moment #69”

  1. He went to Dook, so “Dick” makes sense. /rimshot

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