The Obit For Dick Stuart

The New York Times

Dick Stuart, 70, an Infielder Nicknamed Dr. Strangeglove, Dies


Dick Stuart, an exuberant first baseman who hit baseballs huge distances but fielded so erratically that he was given the nickname Dr. Strangeglove, died Sunday at his home in Redwood City, Calif. He was 70.

The cause was cancer, his family said.

Stuart's strength and his weakness were obvious from the start of his career. At the time, the major league home run record for one season was Babe Ruth's 60 in 1927. Stuart hit 66 in 1956 for Lincoln, Neb., of the Class A Western League and started signing autographs "Dick Stuart 66." But the Pittsburgh Pirates, who owned his rights, were wary because, as Manager Bobby Bragan said, "Dick Stuart is the worst outfielder I ever saw in my life."

The Pirates made him a first baseman, feeling that his fielding would not hurt them as much there. He played 1,112 major league games for the Pirates (1958-62), the Boston Red Sox (1963-64), the Philadelphia Phillies (1965), the Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers (1966) and the California Angels (1969).

At 6 feet 3 inches and 212 pounds, he batted and threw right-handed. His career batting average was .264, and he compiled such impressive major league statistics as 228 home runs, 743 runs batted in and a .489 slugging average. He also struck out 957 times.

His first major league hit was a home run. His second was a grand slam. In 1963, he led the American League in runs batted in with 118, and in his two years with the Red Sox he hit a total of 75 home runs.

Still, he could never shake his image as a bad fielder. When the public-address announcer at Pirates training camp once told the spectators, "Anyone who interferes with the ball in play will be ejected from the ballpark," Danny Murtaugh, the Pirates' manager at the time, said, "I hope Stuart doesn't think he means him."

Stuart joined the Mets in 1966, and by midseason was batting only .218. The Mets waived him and he was signed by the Dodgers, and when he quickly hit two home runs, the Dodgers fans gave him standing ovations. He appreciated that, he said, because "I've had standing boos a lot of times."

Richard Lee Stuart was born Nov. 7, 1932, in San Francisco and grew up in nearby San Carlos.

He was divorced twice. He is survived by two sons, Richard Jr. and Robert, of Greenwich, Conn.; a daughter, Debra Stuart, of Somerset, Calif.; and a brother, Daryl, of Seattle.

Power hitting came easily to Stuart. But he worked at his fielding, and at times did well. After a banner year in 1961 he said: "Isn't it odd? A guy bats .301 and has 35 homers. Then everybody starts to tell him what a good fielder he has become."