major league baseball american league’s first Black 20-game winner, ‘Black Aces’ author Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant dies

major league baseball american league’s first Black 20-game winner, ‘Black Aces’ author Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant dies

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One of Major League Baseball’s remarkable figures has passed away at 85. Jim “Mudcat” Grant played in MLB from 1958-71 with the Indians, Twins, Dodgers, Expos, Cardinals, Athletics, Pirates and Athletics again, making a big mark there. His impact was particularly felt with the Twins in 1965, when he became the first Black AL pitcher to win 20 games (he went 21-7) and helped them make the World Series, delivering starting wins in Games 1 and 6 (plus hitting a three-run homer in Game 6 and throwing five innings of relief in Game 5).
a baseball player posing for a photo: The Twins' Jim
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During his career, Grant also sang in nightclubs with his “Mudcat and the Kittens” group, and gained a lot of fame for his musical skills. After his playing days, he went on to be a broadcaster with both the Indians and A’s. During his time as a broadcaster, his “a little chin music” phrase about high and inside pitches took off. He continued with music as well, playing on TV shows hosted by Johnny Carson and Mike Douglas, singing the national anthem ahead of an A’s game in 1970, and performing with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. He even hosted a TV variety show in Minneapolis.
Grant pitched 14 seasons with seven different teams in MLB from 1958-1971. He spent his first seven with the Cleveland Indians before joining the Twins in 1964, where he made his greatest impact on the game. He earned his second All-Star bid in 1965 while leading the league with 21 wins en route to the Twins’ first AL pennant.Grant pitched three games in the World Series that year against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He won two, including a complete-game 5-1 win in Game 6. He also led the Twins’ offense that game with a three-run home run. The Dodgers won the series with Sandy Koufax on the mound in Game 7.

Grant posted a 145-119 career record with a 3.63 ERA. He tallied 1,267 career strikeouts and 849 career walks in 2,442 innings over 571 appearances. After retirement, he worked as a broadcaster for the Indians and was a vocal advocate for Black participation in sports

Beyond that, Grant shaped efforts to recognize Black pitchers with his 2007 “Black Aces” book (written with Tom Sabellico and Pat O’Brien) and campaign to recognize Black pitchers who had won 20 games in a single MLB season. That became a major cause for him, and it had a significant impact. Here’s more on that from Rhett Bolinger in a 2017 MLB.com piece:

“It was definitely special for me,” Grant said at a recent TwinsFest. “I didn’t know there was never an African-American pitcher who won 20 games in the American League. As the season progressed, I started getting all kinds of mail, and even Howard Cosell called me a couple times when I got to 18 wins. So, it was really special.”

As Grant got older, he understood the significance of the milestone, and it became his mission to celebrate the accomplishments of the Black Aces (http://www.theblackaces.com/), African-American pitchers who won at least 20 games. Grant’s book, “The Black Aces: Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners”, came out in 2007, and since then Carsten Sabathia and David Price have joined the exclusive club.

The members are Vida Blue (1971, ’73, ’75), Al Downing (’71), Bob Gibson (’65, ’66, ’68-70), Dwight Gooden (’85), Grant (’65), Ferguson Jenkins (’67-72, ’74), Sam Jones (’59), Don Newcombe (’51, ’55, ’56), Mike Norris (’80), J.R. Richard (’76), Dave Stewart (’87-90), Earl Wilson (’67), Dontrelle Willis (2005), Sabathia (’10) and Price (’12).

“It was a lot of fun doing that book and doing all that research,” Grant said. “I found out so many things that happened and how African-Americans contributed to Major League Baseball. I think it’s just a wonderful thing.”

Beyond that, Grant was a regular figure advocating for Black history in baseball and working to improve Black participation in the game. As Bill Lubinger of The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote around a January 2019 Cleveland Cavaliers game where Grant, Jimmy Jackson, Cris Carter and Jim Brown were honored in a “Black Heritage Celebration” of local athletes, Grant experienced plenty of adversity due to his skin color in both the minors and majors, but also got support from a wide range of teammates. And he spent a large amount of his later years trying to boost Black participation in baseball, including organizing tournaments.

As the number of black players in the majors has shrunk from more than one in four by the mid-70’s to about one in 10 last season, Grant has been out front of an effort to counter the trend.

“Do we just sit here and say, ‘Well, that’s too bad?’ No, you get out and you do something about it,” he said. “You provide a place of opportunity where kids can show some skills at an early age and maybe this will get bigger and bigger and we can motivate them to play this game.”

Grant was also a frequent figure at Negro Leagues Baseball Museum events, and president Bob Kendrick delivered a nice tribute to him Saturday:

Some living members of the Black Aces chimed in with tributes to Grant as well, including Fergie Jenkins and Dontrelle Willis:

Things weren’t easy for Grant for much of his life, with his father dying when he was young, his mother having to go to work in a canning factory, and him having to work in a mill himself at 13. Even his “Mudcat” nickname came from a bad place. As he once shared, that started with white teammates of his in the minors thinking he was from Mississippi (he was from Florida), and calling him “Mississippi Mudcat.”

But the “Mudcat” name became one Grant eventually adopted himself over time, and it wound up being a good fit for his combination of athletic and musical skills. And he definitely brought those to the table often, including with this 2011 performance of “What A Wonderful World” at a memorial for former teammate Harmon Killebrew:

Video player from: YouTube (Privacy Policy, Terms)

Grant will be missed by many throughout the baseball world. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.

The Twins held a moment of silence for Grant prior to Saturday’s game against the Houston Astros.

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Mudcat Grant

Mudcat Grant
BB Mudcat Grant.jpg
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Grant in 2011
Pitcher
Born: August 13, 1935
Lacoochee, Florida
Died: June 12, 2021 (aged 85)
Los Angeles, California
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 17, 1958, for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
September 29, 1971, for the Oakland Athletics
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 145–119
Earned run average 3.63
Strikeouts 1,267
Teams
Career highlights and awards

James Timothy “Mudcat” Grant (August 13, 1935 – June 12, 2021) was an American baseball pitcher who played 14 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). He played for the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1958 to 1971. He was a two-time All-Star.

In 1965, Grant became the first black pitcher to win 20 games in a season in the American League and the first black pitcher to win a World Series game for the American League. He pitched two complete-game World Series victories in 1965, hitting a three-run home run in game 6, and was named The Sporting News American League Pitcher of the Year.

Grant was born in Lacoochee, Florida, on August 13, 1935. He was one of seven children of James Sr. and Viola Grant. His father died when Grant was two years old. He attended Moore Academy in nearby Dade City, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. Grant was awarded a scholarship to play football and baseball at Florida A&M University. However, he dropped out during his sophomore year in order to support his family through financial difficulty. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cleveland Indians before the 1954 season.

Professional career

Grant played four seasons in the minor leagues from 1954 to 1957. He made his MLB debut on April 17, 1958, at the age of 22, winning a complete game against the Kansas City Athletics.  His best season in Cleveland was in 1961 when he had a won-loss record of 15–9 and a 3.86 earned run average. In June 1964, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins and had a record of 11–9 for the remainder of the season. In 1965 Grant had the best year of his career. He was 21–7 for the Twins, helping to lead the team to the 1965 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  In 1965, Grant hosted a local Minneapolis variety television program, The Jim Grant Show, where he sang and danced.

Grant finished 6th in voting for the 1965 American League MVP for leading the league in wins, won-loss percentage (.750), and shutouts (6). He also started 39 games and had 14 complete games, 270+13 innings pitched, 252 hits allowed, 34 home runs allowed, 107 runs allowed, 99 earned runs allowed, 61 walks, 142 strikeouts, 8 wild pitches, 1,095 batters faced, 2 intentional walks issued, and a 3.30 ERA. Grant’s home run in the 6th game of the 1965 World Series was only the second by an American League pitcher during a World Series game.

Grant’s last year as a full-time starting pitcher came in 1966. He spent his next five seasons in baseball as a reliever and occasional starter for five different big-league clubs. He and Zoilo Versalles were traded by the Twins to the Dodgers for John Roseboro, Ron Perranoski and Bob Miller on November 28, 1967.

Grant was the starting pitcher for the Montreal Expos in their first-ever game on April 8, 1969. He pitched 1.1 innings while allowing six hits and three runs, starting his season off with a 20.25 ERA, although the Expos would later win the game in an 11–10 shootout that had nine combined pitchers in the game.[9] He played his final major league game on September 29, 1971, at the age of 36.[4]

In 14 years, he had a 145–119 record in 571 games, while starting in 293 of them and throwing 89 complete games and finishing 160 of them, 18 shutouts, 53 saves, with 2,442 innings pitched on a 3.63 ERA. Grant’s home run during Game 6 of the 1965 World Series was the only one he hit that season and one of only seven he hit in his entire career. As a hitter, Grant posted a .178 batting average (135-for-759) with 80 runs, 6 home runs, 65 RBI and 37 bases on balls. Defensively, he recorded a .966 fielding percentage.

Post-playing career

After retiring as a player, Grant served as the Publicity Director for the North American Softball League (NASL), one of three men’s professional softball leagues active in the pro softball era. He later worked as a broadcaster and executive for the Indians, and also as a broadcaster for the Athletics.

In later years, Grant dedicated himself to studying and promoting the history of blacks in baseball. On his official website, Grant paid tribute to the fifteen black pitchers (including himself) who have won 20 games in a season. The “15 Black Aces” are: Vida Blue, Al Downing, Bob Gibson, Dwight Gooden, Grant, Ferguson Jenkins, Sam Jones, Don Newcombe, Mike Norris, David Price, J. R. Richard, CC Sabathia, Dave Stewart, Dontrelle Willis, and Earl Wilson. In 2007, Grant released The Black Aces, Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners, featuring chapters on each of the black pitchers to have at least one twenty-win season, and also featuring Negro league players that Mudcat felt would have been twenty game winners if they were allowed to play. The book was featured at the Baseball Hall of Fame during Induction Weekend 2006. In February 2007 during an event to honor Black History Month, President George W. Bush honored Grant and fellow Aces, Ferguson Jenkins, Dontrelle Willis and Mike Norris, and the publication of the book, at the White House.

Grant threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day at Progressive Field in Cleveland on April 14, 2008, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his major league debut; he was also awarded the key to the city to honor the occasion. He was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary‘s Shrine of the Eternals in 2012. Four years later, he was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) from Whittier College in 2016.

Grant died on June 12, 2021 at the age of 85

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The Black Aces, Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners is a book written by Jim “Mudcat” Grant, the first African-American Twenty-Game Winner in the American League (Minnesota Twins, 1965) and the first African-American to win a World Series Game in the American League (1965). 

The book is a historically accurate description of the lives of the only thirteen African-American Twenty-Game Winners in the Majors, and a look at the lives of ten other pitchers who Mudcat feels would have been twenty-game winners if they had been allowed to play in the Major Leagues, a privilege denied to them because of the color of their skin. Woven throughout the stories of these men is the story of the integration of baseball, and the integration of America. 

This website is maintained by The Black Aces, LLC, a company founded by Mr. Grant, and is intended as a celebration of the lives of those pitchers included in Mr. Grant’s book.

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