The concept of the multi-sport athlete isn’t a foreign notion in today’s society. Many student-athletes play two or more sports growing up, but few excel at one well enough to go professional; much less two. One of the finest two-sport athletes happens to be a Pittsburgher.
Richard Morrow “Dick” Groat was born in Wilkinsburg on November 4, 1930. His athletic prowess on the diamond and the hardwood started at Swissvale High School and continued at Duke University. At the conclusion of his junior year in college, he signed a professional contract to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, though he returned to school at the request of his parents at the conclusion of the season. In the 1952 NBA Draft, he was selected third overall by the Fort Wayne Pistons, where he played the 1952 season before being drafted into two years of military service at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
Groat decided to forgo his professional basketball career in favor of playing for his hometown Pirates with some persuasion from General Manager Branch Rickey. Initially, the Groat struggled at the Major League level but developed into a solid contact hitter and defender for an improving Pirates team that included the likes of Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Bob Friend, and Vern Law. 1960 proved to be the pinnacle of success for Groat as he was named National League MVP, named to his second straight All-Star Game, and won the World Series after Bill Mazeroski’s dramatic Game 7 walk-off home run.
For nine years, Dick Groat was a cornerstone of the Pirate infield. He was traded in 1962 to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he would find continued playing time into his mid-30’s. The 1967 season proved to be Groat’s last as he struggled with the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants due to a severe case of cellulitis, which limited his playing time. He concluded his career hitting .286 in fourteen seasons.
Some of Groat’s career achievements and awards include:
Groat returned to Pittsburgh and expressed his interested in golf course management by building the Champion Lakes Golf Course in Bolivar, PA with former teammate Jerry Lynch. Today, Groat and his daughter, Allison, still oversee the day-to-day operations of the course. Groat also returned to his first love; basketball. Since 1979, Groat has served as color analyst for the University of Pittsburgh’s basketball broadcasts. He still shows the same passion for the game he last played professionally in 1952. The Pride of Swissvale is certainly a good moniker for Dick Groat, as he is arguably one of the best athletes to ever come out of the Burgh.