Cardinals Throwback Thursday: Basketball Stars Bob Gibson and Dick Groat

Ah, March Madness … If you’re a college basketball fan, or even if you just fill out one of the vast array of bracket options available, you’re no doubt aware that it begins today. With that in mind, here’s a Throwback Thursday look at two Cardinals who excelled on the hardwood as well — and both at colleges who are part of this year’s tournament.

collage320Bob Gibson’s basketball past is something I’ve written about previously, and you might be familiar with his accomplishments. He earned a basketball scholarship to Creighton University, which is the No. 3 seed in the West Region and takes on Louisiana – Layfayette on Friday at 2:10 p.m. Central Time.

White and Blue Review, a website about Creighton sports, has an amazingly researched and detailed account of Gibson’s career at the school as part of its “What’s in a Number” series. As with the Cardinals, Gibson wore No. 45 at Creighton. Also as with the Cardinals, the number was retired — though his 45 at Creighton is one of only three numbers that have been retired by the men’s basketball team.

Gibson majored in sociology and played basketball his entire time at Creighton. During his junior season, he averaged 22 points per game. During the spring of 1957, Gibson attracted attention for both his basketball and baseball skills. He received a $3,000 bonus to sign with the Cardinals and made his minor league debut that season. During baseball’s off-season, he signed with the Harlem Globetrotters. He roomed with famed Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon and became known for his backhanded dunks. Check out more about his Globetrotters days in this post Dayn Perry wrote last summer at CBS Sports.

Gibson only played for the Globetrotters one season. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine offered him $4,000 to stop playing basketball, which he accepted and reported to spring training in 1958. Gibson made his major league debut in 1959. And we know what he did from there …

Dick Groat was a shortstop for the Cardinals from 1963 to 1965 who played college basketball at Duke University and was an All-American in 1951 and 1952. Duke, like Creighton a No. 3 seed but in the Midwest Region, plays Mercer on Friday at 11:15 a.m. Central Time.

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