March Madness history lesson: Who’s the only MLB player to be a basketball All-American?

Taking some time off from looking over my NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament bracket for the final time and before the first official game tips off (seriously, are any of you buying this play-in crap?), this March Madness edition of Through The Fence Baseball takes a look at the only athlete to be a Consensus All-American in college basketball and a Most Valuable Player and World Series champion.

Richard Morrow Grote, better known to you and me as Dick Grote is the only athlete in history to be an college basketball All-American, go on to win the MVP, and not one, but two World Series titles.

Grote was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates immediately after graduating from Duke University in 1952. He played 14 seasons in the big leagues as a shortstop with four different teams, the Pirates (1952-62); the St. Louis Cardinals (1963-65); the Philadelphia Phillies (1966-67), and the San Francisco Giants (1967). He was an eight-time all-star and won two World Series championships. One with the Pirates in 1960 and the Cardinals in 1964, and was also the 1960 National League Most Valuable Player.

That season Grote batted .325 with just two home runs, 50 RBI and 186 hits (must have been an off year for the entire National League). Grote finished with a career batting average of .286 with 2,138 hits and 707 runs batted in. He led the National League in singles with 154 in 1960 and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated three times.

Now that’s a nice career for any major leaguer, right? But Grote was just as outstanding of a basketball player

While at Duke, Grote was a two-time All-American in both basketball and baseball in 1951 and 1952. He was the Southern Conference Male Athlete of the Year both years. As a guard, Grote was the 1951 Helms Foundation Player of the Year in 1951 and the United Press International National Player of the Year in 1952. That year he averaged 25.2 points a game, scored a then NCAA record 839 points, which included 48 against arch rival North Carolina, which still stands as the record for the most points scored against the Tar Heels.

Grote was also the Southern Conference Tournament’s Most Valuable Player in 1951 and 1952. Amazingly enough, during Grote’s days as a basketball player the Blue Devils went 20-13 in the 1950-51 season and 24-6 in the 1951-52 seasons and didn’t reach the NCAA tournament. That’s because it was only a 16-team tournament and not the behemoth it has become today.

Adding to his legacy as a two-sport superstar, Grote was the third overall pick in the 1952 NBA Draft by the Fort Wayne Pistons (you know then now as the Detroit Pistons). Grote played one year in the NBA averaging 11.9 points, 2.7 assists and 3.3 points per game. He served a two year stint in the army, but when he came back, he decided to give up basketball and concentrate solely on baseball, but his days as a college basketball will forever be remember at Duke.

In 1952 he had his number 10 basketball jersey retired at Duke and in 1975 was voted in to the Duke Sports Hall of Fame. In 2007 he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and in 2009 was inducted into the Southern Conference Hall of Fame.

For those of you wondering, the Southern Conference became the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 1953 a year after Grote graduated.

Today Grote is alive and well and has been doing radio broadcasts of the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball games since 1979.

Now back to the brackets! I case you’re wondering I’m not that much into this year’s tournament, because there’s nothing but a bunch of mediocre teams playing. And besides, my alma mater, Long Beach State chocked away the Big West Tournament last weekend and was downgraded to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).

But in the spirit of competition and to kill more time at work doing useless things, I finished my bracket and as a tribute to Grote, I have his Duke Blue Devils defending their championship over his current employer, the Pittsburgh Panthers.

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