Groat was an All-American basketball player at Duke and averaged 12 points per game with the Fort Wayne Pistons in the NBL (52-53). However, it was at shortstop in double play combinations with Bill Mazeroski and later with Julian Javier that Groat excelled. A natural athlete, he never played minor league ball. The slick ball-handler was at or near the top of the league each year in assists, putouts, and double plays.
Groat was the complete ballplayer. He batted over .300 four times, and in 1960, Phillies manager Gene Mauch said, “He holds the Pirates together,” as Pittsburgh won a World Championship over the Yankees. Traded to St. Louis, he solved the Cardinals’ shortstop problem (there had been a different regular shortstop every year since 1956). With Groat, the Cardinals finished second in 1963 and were World Champions the following season.