Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19, 1962: Bing Devine Trades For Dick Groat

    On November 19, 1962, Cardinals General Manager Bing Devine engineered a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates that brought shortstop Dick Groat along with relief pitcher Diomedes Olivio to St. Louis in exchange for pitchers Don Cardwell and Julio Gotay.

     The 32 year old Groat was the lynchpin of the deal for the Cards and he would end up becoming an integral part of the 1964 World Championship club. Olivio was a 42 year old rookie lefty reliever who had posted a 5-1 record and recorded 7 saves during the '62 campaign but he never found his footing with the Cardinals and spent most of the '63 season in the minors. On the Pittsburgh side of the trade their General Manager Joe Brown was looking for younger athletes and he got them with Cardwell being 27 and Gotay just 23 years old. However, neither pitcher lived up to what the fans in Pittsburgh hoped for while Groat became a leader in the St. Louis clubhouse.

     Groat began his major league career with the Pirates in 1952. He stood beside second baseman Bill Mazeroski and formed one of the better defensive duos in the game. After hitting .284 during his rookie season he found himself in the rookie of the year conversation and his star was just beginning to shine in the Steel City. After missing the '53 and '54 seasons due to military service, Groat returned and got back to work for the Buccos.

     Like any young player his bat was a little slow to develop but his defense was a force to be reckoned with. In that '55 season he led the National League in putouts which was a feat he would accomplish several more times in a Pirates uniform. He could do more than flash the leather; he could also swing the stick. Over his 9 years in Pittsburgh he carried a .290 average. His best season came in 1960, he helped lead the Pirates to a World Championship by leading the league with a .325 average  on his way to winning the National League MVP award.

     The reason I include all this information about his days with the Pirates is to show how much of an established major leaguer the Cardinals got when they made the deal late in '62. The Cardinals had a need at short and Groat didn't disappoint.

     In his first season in St. Louis he led the league with 43 doubles and hit .319 which was good for third in the National League batting race. The '64 season started a bit rough for Groat, however, he was able to get it together, and hit .292 on the year while playing in every regular season game for the Pennant winning Cardinals.

     In the '64 World Series he hit just .192, however, in Game 4 when Ken Boyer hit his famous grand slam Groat was one of the men who scored as he got on base with an error. He also pulled off the hidden ball trick in that same game by tagging out Mickey Mantle in the third inning. It was only the second time that happened in the World Series and it hasn't happened since.

     That Cardinals infield included Bill White at first, Julian Javier at second, Ken Boyer at third, and Groat at short. This easily is one of the best all around infields in the history of the organization. While the trade worked out great for the Birds all good things must come to an end, and with his numbers in decline he was traded to the Phillies along with Bill White following the '65 season. Groat wore the birds on the bat for three seasons, over the course of those seasons he was at or near the top in putouts and assists, and carried a .289 average while picking up 104 doubles, and 22 triples. It's hard to say for sure, but if the deal to bring Dick Groat to St. Louis never took place there is a good chance that when you look up at those World Championship flags at the ballpark there might be one missing.

Check out his career numbers here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/groatdi01.shtml

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