Groat enlisted in the Army for the next two years, leading Fort Belvoir teams to worldwide Army championships in baseball(posting a .362 average) and basketball (he averaged 35 points per game).
Rejoining the Pirates in 1955, Groat picked up where he left off, hitting .267 in 151 games with 51 RBI and 38 walks against only 26 strikeouts (ranking him second in the NL with 20 at bats per K). He mostly batted second, occasionally holding down the seventh and eighth spot. On September 5th, in the first game of a twin bill against the New York Giants, he collected three hits, a walk, and two RBI in an 8-5, ten inning victory. The Pirates improved to 60-94, 38.5 games behind Brooklyn for the NL pennant.
In 1956, Groat hit .273 over 142 games with 37 RBI, striking out 25 times. He batted second and fifth through eighth in the order while holding down his usual position at shortstop. On July 3rd, he went 3-for-4 with an RBI double in a 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates finally got out of the basement, finishing seventh in the eight team NL at 66-88, 27 games back of the Dodgers.
1957 would see Groat turn a corner, hitting a then-career and NL fifth best .315 with a career high seven home runs and 54 RBI with only 28 strikeouts batting third, fifth, and sixth. His efforts would result in a 15th place finish in the season ending NL MVP vote. On July 18th, he hit an RBI single and a ninth-inning, game tying two-RBI triple, later scoring the winning run in a 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh finished at 62-92, 33 games behind the Milwaukee Braves and tie for last in the NL with the Cubs.
In 1958, Groat posted a .300 average with an NL second best 36 doubles and 66 RBI, striking out only 32 times batting second, third, and seventh. On September 3rd, he went 3-for-4 with two runs, a triple and two RBI as the Pirates lost, 7-4 to the Cincinnati Reds. Pittsburgh moved up the standings into second, posting an 84-70 record, eight games behind the Braves.
1959 would see Groat earn his first all-star invitation, hitting .275 in 147 contests with 51 RBI, a league eighth best seven triples, and only 35 strikeouts. He batted seventh through the first half of the season, moving up to his familiar two slot through the second half. On August 9th, he went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI, including the eventual game winner in the 10th inning of a 5-3 win over the Cubs. Pittsburgh finished fourth in the NL with a 78-76 record, nine games behind the now-Los Angeles Dodgers for the pennant.
1960 would be Groat’s best season as a Pirate. He hit an NL leading .325 with 50 RBI in 138 contests, striking out 35 times with 39 walks. He earned his second consecutive all-star selection, along with the NL MVP award. He batted second all season long at shortstop. He had 58 multi-hit games, including 19 contests where he hit three or more and eight instances of four or more hits. On May 13th, he went 6-for-6 in an 8-2 win over the Braves, collecting three doubles and scoring two runs. On May 31st, he went 5-for-6 with a run scored and an RBI double in a 4-3, 11-inning win over the Reds. Pittsburgh went 95-59 on the season, winning the NL pennant by seven games over the Braves. In the World Series, Groat went 6for-28 with two doubles, two RBI, and three runs as the Pirates sent the New York Yankees home in seven games.
In 1961, Groat returned to earth, hitting .275 with 25 doubles and 55 RBI in 148 games. He batted second most of the season, sometimes starting seventh in the order. On May 22nd, he hit the game winning home run in the eighth inning of a 2-1 win over the Braves. Like Groat, the Pirates also regressed to the mean, finishing out in sixth place with a 75-79 record, 18 games behind the Reds.
1962 would be Groat’s final season in Pittsburgh. He earned his third all-star selection and finished 16th in the NL MVP ballot. He hit .294 in 161 games, with 34 doubles and 61 RBI. He batted second all season long. On September 30th, he went 3-for-5 with a bases clearing double in the eighth inning of a 4-3 win over the Braves. Pittsburgh was 93-68, good for fourth place at the crowded top of the expansion-diluted National League, eight games behind the San Francisco Giants. After the season, the Pirates traded him with pitcher Diomedes Olivo to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Don Cardwell and infielder Julio Gotay.
Groat went on to play three seasons with the Cardinals, earning two more all-star appearances and finishing second in the NL MVP vote in 1963. He hit .289 with 104 doubles and 195 RBI in 472 games. He later also played a season and a half with the Phillies (165 games, .254, 54 RBI) before closing out his career with the Giants (34 games, .171, four RBI).
All-Time Statline: nine seasons, 1258 games, .290/.329/.370, 1435-for-4950, 554 runs, 226 doubles, 40 triples, 30 home runs, 454 RBI, six stolen bases, 284 walks, 313 strikeouts, 20.0 wins above replacement.
Next up: the NL’s 1934 leader in knocking down batters.