Richard Lee Stuart (November 7, 1932 – December 15, 2002) was a Major League Baseball first baseman from 1958 to 1966 and 1969. In 1967 and 1968, he played in Japan for the Taiyo Whales. Throughout his baseball career, Stuart was known as a fine hitter, but a subpar fielder, garnering the unique nickname of "Dr. Strangeglove" for his poor defense. That was a play on words of the movie Dr. Strangelove, which was released in the middle years of Stuart's career. Similarly, the movie Goldfinger inspired another nickname, "Stonefingers". In 1963, he set a record by committing 29 errors, a major league record for first basemen that still stands. Yet another less-than-flattering nickname for Stuart was "The Man With The Iron Glove". It has been noted that had the designated hitter rule existed then, he would have been an excellent candidate for such. Despite his difficulties in the field, he was the first first baseman to record three assists in one inning.
Stuart, in tribute to his poor fielding ability, also earned the nickname "The Ancient Mariner," a reference to an opening line in the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The attributed line being: "It is an ancient mariner, And he stoppeth one of three," suggesting Stuart could only stop one of three balls hit at him the same way the Ancient Mariner in Coleridge's poem stops one of three wedding guests.
Stuart played the bulk of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Red Sox. He hit 228 home runs in his Major League Baseball career (tied for 234th all-time as of 9/20/09), with a batting average of .264. He was elected to the All-Star team in 1961. While Stuart never led the league in home runs, he finished in the top ten in five seasons (1959–61, 1963–64). As a minor league player, Stuart smashed 66 home runs for the Lincoln club of the Class A Western League in 1956; it remains one of the highest totals in the history of minor league baseball.
Stuart was a member of the Pirates' 1960 World Series-winning team. He was on deck as a pinch hitter when Bill Mazeroski hit the ninth-inning home run off Ralph Terry to win the 1960 Series at Forbes Field.
In their book, The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, Brendan C. Boyd and Fred C. Harris wrote an essay on Stuart's notoriously poor fielding. An excerpt: "Every play hit his way was an adventure, the most routine play a challenge to his artlessness. It is hard to describe this to anyone who has not seen it, just as it is hard to describe Xavier Cugat or Allen Ludden. Stu once picked up a hot dog wrapper that was blowing toward his first base position. He received a standing ovation from the crowd. It was the first thing he had managed to pick up all day, and the fans realized it could very well be the last".
Stuart graduated from Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California. Stuart died of cancer in Redwood City.
By Dean Hanley
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