Another thing that cuts into the children's time is Groat's dedication to golf. He is a good golfer, a low-70s shooter. The winter after the Pirates won the World Series, Groat played with his friend Arnold Palmer in the Pebble Beach tournament. "That first hole was awful," he recalls. "There was a big crowd following Arnie, of course, and I was never more nervous in my life. When I went to make my first putt, I froze. I couldn't swing. Finally I said to myself, 'You can't just stand here forever,' so I swung and by a miracle the ball rolled close enough for a tap-in."
When Groat was notified officially of the trade—he had been expecting it—he was worried. "I didn't know what I was getting into," he said. "I'm aware of my shortcomings. I'm not fast, I have limited range and my arm isn't strong. When a team is going well the bad things you do tend to be overlooked. But when a team starts to lose, the bad things look worse."
The Cardinal front office did its best to set Groat's mind at ease. Soon after the trade, Bing Devine invited Groat to dinner in St. Louis. "We talked about the team and then about the rest of the league," Groat says. "All of a sudden, in the middle of the meal, he brought up the subject of my salary. The whole discussion lasted less than 60 seconds, and it was the most pleasant one I can recall."
Manager Johnny Keane was just as anxious to make Groat feel at home. "We had a little talk in Houston," Keane recalls. "I had read a report saying that we had hired Dick as a tutor for Julian Javier. I told Dick I didn't expect him to tutor anybody. I told him we had got him to play shortstop and that was all he had to think about."
Despite the assurance that he was not hired as a tutor, Groat has been a great help to a number of Cardinal players, for that is his nature. "Dick will take Charley James or Tim McCarver aside," says Ken Boyer. "He'll ask them if they know why they're having trouble with a certain pitcher. If they don't know, Dick will suggest something that he's noticed. Groat's different from Musial that way. Stan will help you, but only if you go to him."
Curt Flood, the little center fielder, says he has learned a lot about positioning from Groat. "I'll play a hitter a certain way, and then I'll notice that Dick is a bit further to the right than I would have thought. His knowledge of the hitters is so good, I figure he must be right, so I move a bit to the right, too." When Flood was batting lead-off, just in front of Groat, he found it easier to steal bases than ever before. "I stole quite a few standing up," he says. "Dick is so good at hitting at a hole that the infield-ers hesitate longer than usual before covering the bag. I often got to second base before they did."
Most of all, Groat has helped Javier, the loose, lanky, sometimes moody second baseman from the Dominican Republic. Javier came to the Cardinals in 1960 in the trade that sent Vinegar Bend Mizell to Pittsburgh. He is 27, wears glasses for near-sightedness and has a scar where his cheekbone was once fractured by a pitch. His name is pronounced "Hoolian Havier," and his teammates kid him by asking if he likes to hit against "Hoey Hay" of Cincinnati. His teammates also say that Javier is an even better fielder than last year, more confident and less given to sudden letdowns. It is almost impossible to let down with Dick Groat playing near by.
Even the seasoned Boyer, the only one of the Cardinal infielders to come up through the farm system, has been helped by Groat. "It adds to your confidence to have a player of Dick's stature standing next to you," he says. Boyer, at 32, is still a marvelous third baseman, though a bit less agile than he was five years ago. He is one of seven baseball-playing brothers—Clete plays third base for the Yankees—and one of 12 children in all. The family was reared in Alba, a small town in southwest Missouri. "There was a filling station, a grocery store and a caf�," he says. "We lived about three miles outside of town. When the sun came up, we'd go out in the pasture and play ball, and we wouldn't come in until it got dark."
Bill White, the first baseman, joined the team in 1959, traded from the San Francisco Giants for Sam Jones. White is a magnificently proportioned man, built for football as much as baseball. Several colleges offered him football scholarships, but White turned them down, accepting instead an academic scholarship to Hiram College in Ohio. He wanted to study medicine, but after his freshman year, in which he made the dean's list, he signed with the Giants for a small bonus. It was a decision he still speaks of with a tinge of regret. "I had the scholarship and a part-time job," he says, "but I was still short of money. I got tired of asking my mother for $10. She really couldn't afford it. So I turned to baseball. My friends, the ones I entered school with, are almost through with their medical studies now. They have finished what they set out to do. Whatever I'm going to accomplish will have to be in baseball." As the best first baseman in his League, he has, at 29, already accomplished quite a bit.
Fortunately for the rest of the league, the Cardinal supporting cast does not match the infield. The pitching staff has been shaky. To get Groat, Bing Devine had to give up Larry Jackson, and Jackson is having a splendid season with the Cubs. The others—Bob Gibson, Curt Simmons. Ernie Broglio, Ray Sadecki and another recent trade, Lou Burdette—have been in and out, good and bad. In the tough National League, you must be more consistent than that. Stan Musial, who will become a grandfather in August, is still around, but while his bat can sting, it is not the menace it once was. Even so, the Cardinals, thanks to their heavy-hitting infield, have at least a chance to win their first pennant since 1946. To find out if they do it, read the next chapter in the adventures of Dick Groat.