BlankMudcat Grant, 85, First Black Pitcher With 20-Win Season in A.L., Is Dead.
After 14 major league seasons, he wrote a book about Black pitchers and sang in
"I made way more money in music than I did in baseball," he said.
Mudcat Grant, who helped take the Minnesota Twins to the 1965 World Series when
the American League's first Black pitcher to post a 20-win season, died on
Friday (June 11,
2021) in Los Angeles. He was 85. The Twins and the Cleveland Indians, for whom
pitched early in his major league career, announced his death but did not list
Grant led the American League in victories, winning percentage and shutouts in
pitched for 14 major league seasons. He was remembered as a leading
right-hander of his
time, but also for his intriguing nickname, his second career singing and
nightspots, and his book profiling outstanding Black pitchers.
Grant, a two-time All-Star, was a mainstay in the starting rotation for the
Indians and the
Twins for much of his career, then became a reliever, most notably with the
Oakland A's and
Pittsburgh Pirates. The Indians traded Grant to the Twins in June 1964. His
best season came
the following year, when he went 21-7, turned in a winning percentage of .750
and threw six
shutouts. He pitched two complete-game victories against the Los Angeles
Dodgers in the
World Series, losing once, and hit a three-run homer as the Dodgers went on to
series in seven games.
Cited by Sporting News as the A.L. pitcher of the year, Grant headed a staff
Jim Kaat, Jim Perry and Camilo Pascual, backed by a lineup featuring Harmon
Oliva, Bob Allison and shortstop Zoilo Versalles, the league's most valuable
By his account, Jim Grant acquired his nickname at an Indians tryout camp in
1954 through a
combination of racial stereotyping and disregard for his geographical roots.
the informal name given to large catfish found in muddy streams, especially in
Mississippi Delta, though Grant was born and raised in Florida.
"In those days, they thought all Black folk was from Mississippi," he once told
Cloud Times in Minnesota. "They started calling me Mississippi Mudcat. I said,
"I'm not from
Mississippi," "and they said, "You're still a Mississippi Mudcat. And it's been
very good to
As a youth Grant performed in a choir. Following the 1965 World Series, he
and the Kittens, a song and dance group that played at nightclubs and hotels
off-seasons and that also gained international bookings.
"First his musicians -- up to seven of them -- begin, playing dance music and
and then the Kittens, some very sexy girls in spare feline outfits, take over
the stage to
sing and dance and purr," Frank Deford wrote in Sports Illustrated in 1968.
comes on. He sings -- everything from show tunes to rock 'n' roll -- and tells
"I made way more money in music than I did in baseball," Grant once said.
James Timothy Grant Jr. was born on Aug. 13, 1935, in Lacoochee, Fla., a town
some 40 miles
north of Tampa. He grew up in a poor family amid rigid segregation. His father,
in a lumber mill, died of lung disease when Jim was a child. His mother, Viola,
took a job
in a citrus canning plant to provide for the family.
At age 13 or so, Grant played third base for a local semipro team and worked
part-time in a
mill. Grant was a third baseman and pitcher and also played football and
basketball at Moore
Academy, a historically Black school in Dade City, Fla., then received an
scholarship to the historically Black Florida A&M. He played mostly third base
where he was also a reserve running back. He left in his sophomore year to help
financially, working as a carpenter's assistant.
When a scout for the Indians who had been impressed by his play in high school
Grant had dropped out of college, he recommended him to the Cleveland
organization. He was
still a teenager when he was signed by the Indians for their farm system in
Converted to pitching full time, he advanced through the minors and made his
debut in 1958. His best season with the Indians came in 1961, when he was 15-9
and voted to
the All-Star team for the first time.
When Grant reached the major leagues, Black players were often barred by hotels
restaurants at spring training sites in the South and even in some major-league
largely avoided speaking out on racial issues, but Grant found ways to assert
expose teammates to Black America.
When he was refused service at a lounge frequented by white teammates on his
farm team in
Reading, Pa., he came back night after night following home games and sat there
in a silent
protest, though he never did get served.
He later attended civil rights rallies. One night, he took three white
teammates to the
Apollo Theater in Harlem to see James Brown and Gladys Knight and the Pips.
"After that, they didn't mind going among Black people," he told Steve Jacobson
Jackie's Torch: The Players Who Integrated Baseball -- and America" (2007).
In mid-September 1960, Grant was involved in an incident with racial overtones
national attention. He was in the Indians' bullpen at the outset of a home game
singing the national anthem when he provided his own take on the words 'land of
the free and
the home of the brave. As he told The Associated Press after the game, he sang
like, "This land is not so free, I can't even go to Mississippi."
The bullpen coach, Ted Wilks, objected to Grant's wording and got into an
argument with him.
Grant then went to the clubhouse and left the ballpark, later saying that Wilks
had made a
The Sporting News reported that Wilks had tried to apologize as soon as he made
but Grant wouldn't accept it. He was suspended for the last two weeks of the
leaving the ballpark without permission, though he quickly apologized to his
Dykes, for having done that.
After three-plus seasons with the Twins, Grant pitched mostly in relief -- for
in 1968, the Montreal Expos and the St. Louis Cardinals in 1969, and the
Oakland A's and
Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970 and 1971. He retired in 1971 with a record of
145-119 and 54
Grant was a TV analyst for Indians games in the 1970s, worked in their
department and supported groups fighting childhood illiteracy and drug use. He
moved to Los
Angeles in 1980. Information about his survivors was not immediately available.
Grant's experiences with racism and his interest in Black history inspired him
to write "The
Black Aces: Baseball's Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners" (2006).
The book, a collaboration with Tom Sabellico and Pat O'Brien, profiled 13 Black
including Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who, playing in the National
League, was the
first Black 20-game victor, having achieved that distinction in 1951.
President George W. Bush honored Grant and several of the other 'Black Aces' at
House ceremony in February 2007 marking National African-American History Month.
"At certain points in our past, we didn't have a lot of African-American
pitchers,' Mr. Bush
said. 'I want to thank you, Mudcat, for showing courage, character and
also thank you for setting an example."