Howdy Groskloss

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Howard Hoffman Groskloss

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Biographical Information[edit]

Following the death of Ray Cunningham on July 20, 2005, Howard Groskloss became the oldest living former major leaguer. He retained that title until his death on July 15, 2006 at the age 100. Groskloss played major league baseball, mostly at second base, from 1930 to 1932.

Groskloss decided to become a doctor when, at age 12, he saw his father die of pneumonia. He played baseball as it interested his father, a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, and kept on playing in his dad's memory. Barney Dreyfuss, a family friend, offered to pay Howard if he refused to play football in college, but Groskloss declined the offer. A star football player at Amherst College (where he also played basketball, tennis, ran track, swam and played baseball), he was named the best student-athlete and was given an award for this honor by Calvin Coolidge.

In 1930 Dreyfuss signed Groskloss, who then went on to Yale University medical school. Nicknamed Howdy, he made his major league debut a month after he had given the commencement speech at his graduation from Amherst College. Bypassing the minor leagues, Howard joined the Pirates immediately. He became one of several second basemen to be given an extended look by the club in 1931 and hit .283/.326/.348, better than many of the other candidates. It was the most playing time he saw in any season. George Grantham (51 games) and Tony Piet (44 games) were the only players to appear more at second than Groskloss (39 games). Both Piet and Groskloss had much better fielding percentages and range factors than Grantham at second base, no surprise given Grantham's nickname of "Boots" and his poor defensive reputation.

The Pirates did not plan on Groskloss as a long-term option given his aspirations of a career in medicine. George Gibson became the manager in 1932, replacing Jewel Ens, and was critical of Howard's reading medical textbooks on the train. He was just 2 for 20 in limited playing time that year. In 1933 Groskloss finished his baseball career by playing for three minor league teams, not doing well anywhere.

Getting his medical degree from Yale after turning down a Rhodes scholarship, Dr. Groskloss taught obstetrics, gynecology and endocrinology for over 50 years. He was an educator at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Minnesota and the University of Miami. During World War II he served as the chief medical officer and flight surgeon on a carrier in the Pacific. He also became a golfer later in life and won many tournaments.

While his birthday is given on various internet sites as April 9th or April 10 in either 1906 or 1907, Groskloss states that it is April 10, 1906. His Social Security death record confirms that date.

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