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Longtime Pirates shortstop and Duke basketball star Dick Groat dies at 92

Dick Groat was drafted No. 3 overall by the Fort Wayne Pistons but played only one season in the NBA before leaving to serve in the Army

Longtime Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Dick Groat, who set a single-season NCAA scoring record at Duke and briefly played in the NBA, died Thursday.

He was 92.

Groat’s family confirmed that he died Thursday morning at a Pittsburgh hospital due to complications from a stroke he suffered last week.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of such a beloved member of the Pirates family and Pittsburgh community,” Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said in a statement. “He was a great player and an even better person … His was a life well lived. He will be missed.”

Groat was a Pittsburgh-area native and a two-sport athlete in college at Duke. He was a two-time All-American basketball player for the Blue Devils and set a NCAA single-season scoring record with 831 points as a junior in the 1950-51 season. Groat also led the Duke baseball team to its first College World Series in 1952.

He joined the Pirates later that year and was also drafted No. 3 overall in the NBA by the Fort Wayne Pistons. Groat played only one season in the NBA and then missed the next two years while serving in the Army. After he returned from service, Pirates general manager Branch Rickey made him choose between baseball and basketball, and Groat chose baseball.

Former Pirates stars Dick Groat and Steve Blass in 2019.
Dick Groat, seen here in 2019, died Thursday. He was 92. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

“I was heartbroken,” he said, via The New York Times. “Basketball was my first love.”

Groat spent the next eight seasons with the Pirates and picked up two All-Star nods before leading Pittsburgh to a World Series title in 1960, the year he won the NL batting championship and MVP award.

Groat was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963, and he won a second World Series over the New York Yankees the following year. He then wrapped up his career with brief stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants before retiring in 1967. In total, the five-time All-Star ended with a career batting average of .286 and had 39 home runs and more than 2,100 hits in his 14 seasons.

Groat was inducted into the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame in 1975 and was later inducted into both the College Baseball Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

"The world lost an absolute treasure with the passing of Dick Groat, a historically significant athlete and even better person,” longtime Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “As much as our family appreciated his marvelous basketball and baseball career, we admired how he carried himself after it ended even more. A true multi-sports icon, Dick represented Duke University and the city of Pittsburgh with the utmost of class and dignity, which resulted in universal admiration. The Krzyzewski family offers its deepest sympathy to his family, friends, and everyone he touched in such a meaningful and positive way throughout his amazing life."