On Tobacco Road they still think of Dick Groat as a basketball
player, a powerful point guard with hands as soft as a lullaby
and a jump shot as straight and true as June Cleaver. In 1952 he
was the national player of the year after averaging 26.0 points
and 7.6 assists as a senior at Duke. His 831 points in his
junior season remains the standard for single-season points by a
Blue Devil. "I'm remembered as a baseball player and not by the
sport I played the best," says Groat, 68. "North Carolina is the
one place where I'm still remembered as a basketball player."
He is remembered elsewhere as a slightly built (5'11", 172
pounds), slow-footed shortstop who rarely made an errant throw
and developed into a masterly hit-and-run batsman. "I didn't
have speed, power or the greatest arm," says Groat, a .286
hitter over 14 seasons. "Baseball was work. Every day."
Basketball was another story. Long before Deion discovered prime
time and Bo knew home runs, Groat made his claim as the nation's
premier dual-sport star. He jumped straight to the majors from
the College World Series in June 1952 and hit a team-high .284
in 95 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That winter he suited up
for the Fort Wayne Pistons and averaged 11.9 points in 26 games.
After serving a two-year army commitment at Fort Belvoir, Va.,
Groat intended to resume playing two pro sports in '55. Pirates
general manager Branch Rickey had other ideas. "He told me the
human body before long would not let me do a good job for either
team," says Groat, who opted to honor his contract with
Pittsburgh--his NBA deal had expired--and give up his hoop
dreams. "I was heartbroken. Basketball was my first love."
In 1960 Groat hit a National League-leading .325, won the
league's MVP award and captained the Pirates to their first
world championship in 35 years. Two years later he was dealt to
St. Louis, where in '63 he led the majors in doubles with 43 and
in '64 played for a second World Series-winning team. That year
Groat and another Pirate, Jerry Lynch, broke ground on a golf
course seven miles north of Ligonier, Pa. After retiring as a
player in '67, Groat began helping to manage the course. Today,
he lives at his Champion Lakes Golf Club for half the year; the
other six months he lives in Edgewood, Pa., and works as a radio
analyst for Pitt basketball. Groat has three adult daughters and
six grandchildren. His wife of 35 years, Barbara, died in '90 of
lung cancer. Asked to ponder his potential payday had he been
born 50 years later, Groat, a two-sport All-America, can only
smile. "If I came out of college today," he says, "I could pay
cash for the golf course."
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN G. ZIMMERMAN Long before Deion and Bo, Groat made his claim as the nation's premier dual-sport star.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS