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Jim Mudcat Grant
*"Mudcat" Grant was born on this date in 1935. He was a Black Major League Baseball pitcher (retired).
James Timothy "Mudcat" Grant was born in Lacoochee, Florida, then a lumber town is about 40 miles north of Tampa. He was one of seven children born to James and Viola Grant. Like many of the residents of Lacoochee, James Grant, Sr. worked at the lumber mill, but he died when Mudcat was 2 and the responsibility fell to Viola to provide for the family. She worked during the day at a citrus canning factory and took in domestic work as well. Grant was a three-sport star (football, basketball, baseball) at Moore Academy in Dade City, Florida. He also competed on the semipro sandlots for the Lacoochee Nine Devils. He played third base in those days because he had such a strong arm. He earned an athletic scholarship to Florida A&M University to play football and baseball.
Grant left Florida A&M during his sophomore year because of financial reasons for his family. He sought work to help out at home, saying, “Somebody had to start earning money and sacrifice.” Grant relocated to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and found work as a carpenter’s helper while he lived with relatives. It was the keen eye of Cleveland Indians bird-dog scout Fred Merkle that started Grant on his way to life as a professional baseball player. Merkle worked the State Negro Baseball Tournament at Daytona Beach when Grant was a senior in high school, but Grant was only 17, too young to sign a contract. When Merkle heard that Grant had left school, he tracked him down in Daytona Beach to sign him up with the Cleveland Indians.
Grant signed in 1954 as an amateur free agent and made his MLB debut with the Indians in 1958. 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. In 1965, he was 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. 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. He 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 ⅓ 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. 1966 was Grant's last year as a full-time starting pitcher. He spent his next five seasons in baseball as a reliever and occasional starter for five different teams.
He also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1968), Montreal Expos (1969), St. Louis Cardinals (1969), Oakland Athletics (1970 and 1971), and Pittsburgh Pirates (1970–1971). He was named to the 1963 and 1965 American League All-Star Teams. 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. After his playing career ended, Grant worked for the North American Softball League, 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 recent years, Grant has dedicated himself to studying and promoting the history of blacks in baseball. On his official website, Grant pays tribute to the fifteen black pitchers (including himself) who have won 20 games in a season. The "15 Black Aces" 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. On April 14, 2008, he threw out the ceremonial opening pitch at Cleveland’s Progressive Field to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his major league debut. Grant was also awarded the key to the city to honor the occasion. Grant was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals in 2012. He was also awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) from Whittier College in 2016. Jim Mudcat Grant died on June 11, 2021, at the age of 85.