Apart from Jim Thorpe, who possibly was the greatest athlete short of Tarzan, Dick Groat is so richly deserving of mention.
In this context.
Groat was one of the most accomplished two-sport athletes in American sports history, a college All-America in baseball and basketball as well as one of only 13 to play both at the professional level.
[The other 12? Danny Ainge, Frank Baumholtz, Hank Biasatti, Gene Conley, Chuck Connors, Dave DeBusschere, Steve Hamilton, Mark Hendrickson, Cotton Nash, Ron Reed, Dick Ricketts, and Howie Schultz.]
Be reminded that this was well before the likes of Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan.
And there have been plenty of other elite two-sport athletes.
Baseball Hall-of-Famers Bob Gibson, Tom Glavine and Tony Gwynn enjoyed great success in other sports.
Jackie Robinson (a four-sport star at UCLA).
Mookie Betts: what, bowling is not a sport?
Kyler Murray, Tim Tebow, Russell Wilson.
And even MJ, though he was a banjo hitter.
Somehow Groat, who died last week (April 27) at 92, shines ever-so brightly in this pantheon of greats.
The Wilkinsburg, PA native starred for the Pittsburgh Pirates after being drafted in 1952 by the NBA’s Fort Wayne Pistons with the third overall pick in the first round.
[In his only season, 1952-’53: 11.9 ppg; 2.7 apg; and 3.3 rpg].
The eight-time All-Star shortstop and two-time World Series champion finished his career with a .286 batting average and 2,138 hits over fourteen seasons with four NL teams.
He was the National League MVP with the world champion Pirates in 1960 when he won the batting title, hitting .325.
For seven seasons (1956-’62) Groat teamed with future Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski to give the Bucs one of the most efficient keystone combinations in baseball history.
He ranked ninth in major league annals with 1,877 games played at shortstop, and fourth in double plays.
At Duke, Groat was a 2-time All-America, 2-time McKelvin Award winner as the Southern Conference athlete of the year and the first basketball player to have his number–10–retired in school history.
In 2011, he was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first person ever to be honored in both the college baseball and basketball halls of fame.
Dick Groat was a true sports legend.
A two-sport legend.
Never to be forgotten.
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in May 2023.]