He had the kind of scary power that made scouts drool and pitchers cringe.
He also brought with him the kind of defensive liabilities that made his own pitchers cringe.
Dick Stuart once hit 66 home runs in one season in the minor leagues. That was in 1956 with the Lincoln Chiefs in the Western League. He blasted 45 home runs with three different teams – all in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization – in 1957, and ripped another 31 homers at the AAA level in 1958 before being called up to Pittsburgh, where he hit 16 home runs with 48 RBIs in 67 games.
Stuart hit 27 home runs for the Pirates in 1959 and 23 in 1960. He might have had more had it not been for the cavernous dimensions of Forbes Field, where the Pirates played in Pittsburgh.
Of course, Stuart was also known as the worst defensive player of his era, setting records for errors at first base that have never been broken … or even approached. The Pirates overlooked his defensive liability when he had a season like 1962: 35 home runs with 117 RBIs. When Stuart’s power numbers slipped to 16 home runs and 64 RBIs in 1962, he became available for the right price (i.e., a pitcher).
That pitcher turned out to be right-hander Don Schwall. Schwall was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1961, going 15-7 with a 3.22 ERA and 10 complete games for the Boston Red Sox. Schwall’s record fell to 9-15 with a 4.94 ERA, and he became expendable.
The Pirates were looking for pitching. The Red Sox were looking for runs.
Schwall’s struggles continued in Pittsburgh. He was 6-12 in 1963 and 22-23 for the Pirates over three seasons.
The deal worked out much better for Boston. Stuart found the dimensions of Fenway Park to be more to his liking, and responded in 1963 by hitting 42 home runs and leading the American League with 118 RBIs. He was the first player to hit more than 30 home runs in a season in both leagues.
Stuart followed that performance by hitting 33 home runs with 114 RBIs in 1964. But that was his last season battering the Green Wall. Over the winter, Boston traded Stuart to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Dennis Bennett.