Mudcat Grant, American League’s First Black 20-Game Winner, Dies at 85

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“First his musicians — up to seven of them — begin, playing dance music and jazzier stuff, 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. “Then Mudcat comes on. He sings — everything from show tunes to rock ‘n’ roll — and tells jokes and dances.”

“I made way more money in music than I did in baseball,” Grant as soon as mentioned.

James Timothy Grant Jr. was born on Aug. 13, 1935, in Lacoochee, Fla., a city some 40 miles north of Tampa. He grew up in a poor household amid inflexible segregation.

His father, who labored in a lumber mill, died of lung illness when Jim was a toddler. His mom, Viola, took a job in a citrus canning plant to supply for the household. At age 13 or so, Grant performed third base for an area semipro workforce but additionally labored part-time in a mill.

Grant was a 3rd baseman and pitcher and in addition performed soccer and basketball at Moore Academy, a Black faculty in Dade City, Fla., then obtained an athletic scholarship to the traditionally Black Florida A&M. He performed largely third base in faculty, the place he was additionally a reserve operating again. He left in his sophomore 12 months to assist his household financially, working as a carpenter’s helper.

When a scout for the Indians who had been impressed by his play in highschool realized that Grant had dropped out of school, he beneficial him to the Cleveland group.

He was nonetheless a teen when he was signed by the Indians for his or her farm system in 1954. Converted to pitching full time, he superior by way of the minors and made his major-league debut in 1958. His greatest season with the Indians got here in 1961, when he was 15-9 and voted to the All-Star workforce for the primary time.

When Grant reached the foremost leagues, Black gamers had been usually barred by accommodations and eating places at spring coaching websites within the South and even in some major-league cities.

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