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Johnny Groth: Longtime Tigers OF, MLB scout, Navy vet dies at 95

Johnny Groth, who died Saturday in Palm Beach Fla., was an MLB outfielder for the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics through the 1940s and 1950s. Photo by the Detroit Tigers
Johnny Groth, who died Saturday in Palm Beach Fla., was an MLB outfielder for the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics through the 1940s and 1950s. Photo by the Detroit Tigers

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Johnny Groth, a 15-year MLB veteran who enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II instead of accepting a major football and basketball scholarship offer, has died. The longtime Detroit Tigers outfielder was 95.

Groth's family informed Quattlebaum Funeral, Cremation and Event Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., of his death Saturday.

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He died at his oceanfront condominium in Palm Beach. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Betty, 11 children and 29 grandchildren.

Groth was born in Chicago in 1926 and raised just blocks from Wrigley Field. He played quarterback at Chicago Latin School and received scholarship offers in 1944 from Notre Dame, Yale and Big Ten programs to play football or basketball. He also was drafted by several MLB teams.

He instead enlisted in the Navy.

Groth went on to play under Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, who was in charge of Navy baseball operations. He joined the Tigers in 1946 after he was discharged from service.

He was in and out of the Minor Leagues until 1949. He hit .293 with 11 home runs and 73 RBIs in 103 games that season for the Tigers and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting.

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Groth hit a career-best .306 and helped the Tigers make a run for the American League pennant in 1950. The Tigers finished second that season to Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and the New York Yankees.

Groth later played for the St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics. He rejoined the Tigers in 1957. He hit .368 in 25 appearances in 1960 for the Tigers.

He retired with a .279 batting average and .987 fielding percentage. His perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 1956 was the best in baseball for any non-pitcher who played at least 56 games that season.

He went on to manage the Tigers' Single-A affiliate in Decatur, Ill., for two seasons after retirement. Groth started work as a scout in 1966 for the Atlanta Braves. He held that role for 27 years until he retired in 1990.

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