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Thursday, December 19, 2002
Stuart played in majors for 10 seasons
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- Dick Stuart, a brawny slugger whose bad fielding earned him the nickname "Dr. Strangeglove,'' has died.
Stuart died Sunday. He was 70.
An All-Star in 1961, the first baseman hit .264 with 228 home runs and 743 RBI in a 10-year career. He played for Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, the New York Mets, Los Angeles and California, and finished up in 1969.
Stuart was in the on-deck circle at Forbes Field when Bill Mazeroski hit the bottom-of-the-ninth inning home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series that lifted the Pirates over the New York Yankees.
"I was kneeling in the on-deck circle, thinking I was going to be the hero. And all of a sudden, I was out on the field jumping around,'' Stuart later recalled.
Stuart caught the attention of baseball scouts in 1956 when he hit 66 home runs for Lincoln of the Class A Western League. From then on, he always put a "66'' with his name when he signed autographs.
A poor outfielder, the Pirates moved him to first base when he made his major league debut in 1958. Even so, Stuart still struggled in the field, making 16 errors in only 64 games that season.
Stuart made a whopping 29 errors at first base for the Red Sox in 1963.
Former Pirates shortstop Dick Groat observed: "Dick's biggest problem was his lack of concentration. Thinking about hitting instead of playing defense.''
"It wasn't that his hands were so bad. Dick just wanted to hit the ball. He didn't want to be catching it or fighting ground balls. To Dick, fielding was a necessary evil,'' Groat said.
Or, as former Pirates infielder Dick Schofield said, "Everybody liked Dick -- but he did have trouble with that leather thing.''
Once during a Pirates' spring training game, the stadium announcer said: "Anyone who interferes with the ball in play will be ejected from the ballpark.''
Hearing that, Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh said, "I hope Stuart doesn't think he means him.''
Pirates infielder Gene Freese remembered a game in which Stuart botched three grounders and then caught the fourth -- but accidentally flipped the ball down the right-field line when he tried to wave off the pitcher.
Stuart split time with Rocky Nelson at first base on the Pirates' championship team in 1960. Stuart poured champagne over the head of Pittsburgh Mayor Joseph Barr in the locker room.
"You old so-and-so, you shouldn't have come in here if you didn't want to get wet,'' Stuart told him.
Stuart hit 42 home runs for Boston in 1963 and led the AL with 118 RBI.