On September 6, 1960, having just won a series with the Milwaukee Braves, the Pittsburgh Pirates found themselves leading the National League by seven games. They seemed to be on track for their first pennant in 33 years.
But in their win on September 6, star shortstop and captain Dick Groat was hit by a Lew Burdette pitch, which broke his wrist. Groat was not expected to be available until around the end of the regular season. When St. Louis beat the Bucs the following day, reducing the Pirates’ lead six games, it suddenly seemed like there might be a pennant race brewing after all.
But 50 years ago today, in a game against the Chicago Cubs, Groat’s replacement, utility man Dick “Ducky” Schofield, signaled that Groat would not be missed. His two-out triple, after the Cubs had intentionally walked Bill Mazeroski to get to Schofield, was the key hit in the Pirates’ 4-3 victory.
From the time of Groat’s injury until the end of the season, Schofield went 24 for 64 with 10 walks. And the Pirates coasted to the pennant, finishing seven games ahead of second place Milwaukee.
Groat returned to the lineup just before the end of the season. He started all seven games of the World Series, going 6 for 28. Limited to reserve duty, Schofield had one hit in three at-bats. He would play until 1971, but never again distinguished himself. His career batting average was only .227.
Following the World Series, in which the Pirates famously beat the New York Yankees on Bill Mazeroski’s dramatic home run, Groat was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. That Series, and the bizarre selection of Groat for regular season MVP, will be the subjects of upcoming posts.
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