Nov 6, 2012

Brief Mid Sixties Met: "Dr. Strange Glove" Dick Stuart (1966)

Richard Lee Stuart was born November 7, 1932 in San Francisco, California. The six foot four right handed hitting Stuart was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1951 & became a power hitter in the minor leagues. He hit over thirty HRs in 1952 then went off to military service the next two years. He returned to hit 32 more upon his return in 1955. Stuart hit a remarkable 66 HRs at A ball Lincoln in 1956, enjoying success as a minor league star. He even began signing autographs Stewart66.

He came up to the majors with the Pirates in 1958 starting out as an outfielder. He was so bad in the outfield he was switched over to first base & only stayed in the lineup because his slugging couldn't be denied. Defensively Stuart was one of the worst fielders of his time, and of all time. He set one record that still stands today, leading the league in errors seven times.

Stuart led the National League in errors for every year he played in the league at the start of his career (1958-1962). He earned the nick name “Dr. Strange Glove” & was also called “Stone Fingers” and “The Man with the Iron Glove” in reference to the James Bond movie of the time. He once picked up a hot dog wrapper on the field and the crowd gave him a huge ovation. They realized it was the only thing he had picked up all day and possible it could be his last.

When the public-address announcer at Pirates spring training said ''Anyone who interferes with the ball in play will be ejected from the ballpark,'' the Pirates' manager Danny Murtaugh, said, ''I hope Stuart doesn't think he means him.''

He would play in Pittsburgh for five seasons, winning a World Series there in 1960. That 1960 season he hit 23 HRs (9th in the NL) leading all Pirates batters. He was second to Bob Skinner on the club driving in 83 runs (10th in the NL) batting .260 with 17 doubles, while striking out 107 times.

Post Season: In the World Series he struggled going just 3-20 (.150) and was on deck when Bill Mazeroski hit his classic World Series walk off game winning, world series winning HR.

In 1961, the free swinging Stuart led the NL in striking out (162 times) but still made the All Star team. He also received votes for the MVP Award having a fine season. He hit .301, with 35 HRs (4th in the NL) 28 doubles & 117 RBIs (5th in the NL). He missed some action in 1962 playing in 118 games, still hitting 16 HRs but his batting average plummeted to just .228. In November 1962 he was traded with Jack Lamabe to the Boston Red Sox for Jim Pagliaroni and Don Schwall.

In his first year in Boston he had his best season, as he fell in love with hitting the ball over over the Fenway Park Green Monster. He led the AL in RBIs (118) & was second to Minnesota's Harmon Killebrew in HRs (42). He batted .261 with 25 doubles as well. On the field although he led all AL first baseman in games played, put outs & assists he also led his new league in errors (29). He would lead the AL In errors two straight seasons, totaling seven straight years leading a league in errors.

In 1964 his batting numbers were down a bit but he still hit 33 HRs (5th in the AL) with 114 RBIs (2nd in the AL) & a .279 batting average. In 1965 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and hit 28 HRs there, driving in 95 runs. For the fifth time in his career he struck out over 100 times. His stay in Philly was short, as that winter he was traded to the New York Mets for Bobby Klaus, Wayne Graham and Jimmie Schaffer.

He debuted with the Mets on Opening Day batting cleanup & playing first base going 0-3. He hit his first Mets HR on May 8th at Shea Stadium off the Chicago Cubs Dick Ellsworth. It seemed once he arrived in New York he forgot how to hit, as Stuart didn’t hit another HR until May 31st. The next day he hit another, scoring the only run in a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. By June he was batting a measly .218 with just 4 HRs & 13 RBIs after playing in 31 games. On the field he was his usual self, making six errors in 23 games played at first base (.974). At age 33 the talk was he was just about washed up, the Mets released him by July.

He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers having one last power surge hitting three HRs with seven RBIs in the last week of the month. He played baseball in Japan in the next two years, but returned to the majors for 22 games with the California Angeles in 1969. He ended his ten year career batting .264, with 228 HRs (245tht all time). He had 1055 hits, 157 doubles, 30 triples & 743 RBIs, with a .316 on base % .489 slugging average (14st all time).

Stuart averaged a HR every 17.5 time at bat, which is 65th best all time. He also struck out 957 times in 3997 at bats with four seasons of 100 plus strike outs. Dr Strange Glove made 169 errors at first base (42nd most all time) leading the league in errors seven straight seasons.

Passing: Stuart passed away in Redwood, California, at the age of 73 in 2005.

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