Sports legend Dick Groat honored with ‘day,’ recalls ’60 World Series win
Pittsburgh Pirates legend Dick Groat turned the memories of some gray-haired golfers and University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg supporters to a time 59 years ago, when they were young and the scrappy Bucs beat the Goliath of the baseball world, the New York Yankees, to win the 1960 World Series.
Groat was holding court at the Totteridge Golf Course clubhouse in Salem, telling stories of the improbable 1960 Pirates for which he played a critical role as the shortstop and the National League’s Most Valuable Player. After a UPG golf outing, Groat was signing autographs on baseballs, shirts, hats and pictures of himself in his playing days.
Groat recalled how the underdog Pirates were not expected to beat the Yankees.
“I probably doubted it like everyone else did,” Groat said. But those doubts were erased after he and second baseman Bill Mazeroski teamed up on a put-out play at second base in the first game. He felt the Pirates could play with the big Yankees, led by Mickey Mantle.
The Westmoreland County Commissioners declared Friday to be Dick Groat Day in the county and presented a proclamation to the two-sport star and owner of Champion Lakes Golf Course in Fairfield Township, north of Ligonier.
Groat said he was proud to have the county name Oct. 18 Dick Groat Day.
“This is a special honor. … People have treated us extremely well at Champion Lakes,” Groat said of his 53-year ownership of Champion Lakes, which he purchased with fellow Pirate Jerry Lynch.
“I have no intentions of leaving Western Pennsylvania,” said the 88-year-old Groat, who was born in Wilkinsburg and lives in the Ligonier area. His daughter, Carol Ann Groat, said he “winters” in Pittsburgh.
Commissioner Chuck Anderson told Groat he came home from high school on Oct. 13, 1960, to see his father watching the seventh game of the World Series. He got to see Mazeroski hit the Series-clinching home run over the left field wall of old Forbes Field.
“That will live with me the rest of my life,” Anderson said.
“He was the Deion Sanders of his generation,” Robert Gregerson, UPG’s new president, said of Groat, who excelled in both baseball and basketball. Sanders played for the Atlanta Braves baseball team and the Atlanta Falcons football team.
While Pittsburgh sports fans remember Groat as an excellent baseball player, Groat admitted that “basketball was my first love.” He played basketball as a youngster, but did not play organized baseball until he was a sophomore in high school.
He was an All-American in basketball at Duke and wanted to continue playing in the National Basketball Association while playing for the Pirates. But Groat said Pirates general manager Branch Rickey put an end to that.
Groat, who played for four teams from 1955 to 1967, said he is one of the few players who was on a team that beat the Yankees in the World Series with two different teams.
He won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
From his broadcast booth at the Syracuse Carrier Dome where Pitt was playing Syracuse in football, longtime Pitt radio play-by-play man Bill Hillgrove recalled their 40-year partnership broadcasting Pitt basketball games. Groat, who is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, provided the color analysis for Pitt until his recent retirement.
“No other duo in the college game can make that statement.” Hillgrove said. “The wins, the road trips, especially to New York City for the Big East tournaments, were especially rewarding. Roomie, enjoy your well-deserved night.”
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .