Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Mudcat Grant’s Underrated Late-Career Run as a Fireman

Jim “Mudcat” Grant’s major league career spanned from 1958 to 1971, the majority of which was spent as a starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins.  Grant’s most memorable season came in 1965 when he made history by becoming the first African-American pitcher to post a 20-win campaign in the AL.  That same year, the right-handed hurler picked up a pair of victories in Minnesota’s narrow World Series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  However, just a few seasons later, Grant found himself moving from team to team through a series of transactions, bouncing in and out of the starting rotation, at times exiled to a mop-up role in the bullpen.  Finally, in 1970, Grant found stability as a member of the Oakland Athletics where he became the leader of the club’s relief corps.  An overlooked aspect of Grant’s career is his successful transformation from a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher to an effective relief pitcher who could be counted on to close out tight games.

During this era, a team's primary relief pitcher was commonly referred to as a fireman or stopper.  Unlike today, where one-inning saves by closers are the norm, the top relievers of this era were often asked to come into the game with runners on base and pitch multiple innings.  Grant’s journey from frontline starter to fireman was not without its difficulties.  After going 21-7 with a 3.30 ERA while leading the AL in victories, win-loss percentage, and shutouts during his banner 1965 campaign, Grant saw his record slump to 13-13 in 1966 despite posting a slightly lower 3.25 ERA.  The righty’s middling record was largely the result of a decrease in run support.  After being provided an average of 5.63 runs per game in 1965, his run support dropped by a full run and three-quarters to 3.88 in 1966.  Grant fell out of favor with the Twins during a difficult 1967 season in which his ERA ballooned to a career-high 4.72 as he battled knee injuries, was removed from the starting rotation in mid-July, and gathered dust as a seldom used member of the bullpen for the remainder of the year.  During the offseason, the hurler was packaged in a trade to the Dodgers where he had a nice rebound campaign, posting a 2.08 ERA across 95 innings.  Although Grant’s 1968 season was successful from a performance standpoint, it was unsatisfying professionally as he was unable to break into the rotation—drawing just four starting assignments—and rarely received the call in high leverage situations out of the bullpen.  Grant’s stay in Los Angeles lasted just a single year as he was left unprotected during the expansion draft and subsequently selected by the Montreal Expos.  Joining the startup Expos franchise presented the veteran with the opportunity to become a starter again.  Grant rose to the occasion, having an excellent spring training and was named Opening Day starter for the club’s inaugural game.  However, Grant was largely ineffective as a starter for Montreal and after producing an ugly 1-6 record and 4.80 ERA, was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals in early June.  Shortly after the trade, Grant drew a few starts for the Redbirds but following back-to-back rough outings, the righty was sent back to the bullpen.  Unlike Los Angeles the year before though, St. Louis called upon Grant in tight games and high leverage situations.  Towards the end of the season, he became one the club’s main options to close out games.  Grant finished 1969 with seven saves, five of which came in September.  His combined record for Montreal and St. Louis stood at 8-11 with a 4.42 ERA.  However, there was a significant gap between his 5.46 ERA as a starter and 3.16 mark in relief.

After splitting the 1969 season between Montreal and St. Louis, Grant once again found himself on the move when he was sold to the Oakland Athletics on December 5 for the hefty sum of $50,000—an amount which was double the $25,000 waiver price.  Grant joined an A’s club that, after spending decades as an AL-doormat, had finally emerged into a contender.  Led by the breakout performances of young sluggers Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando, Oakland finished the 1969 campaign in second place with an 88-74 record.  The A’s had done a good job of remaining in striking distance of the division lead until the Minnesota Twins finally pulled away in September to win the AL West by nine games.  The acquisition of Grant was part of a busy winter in which the team also picked up veteran players Felipe Alou, Al Downing, Diego Segui, and Don Mincher.  A’s owner Charlie Finley explained his strategy behind bringing in Grant and the other seasoned players.  “Oakland’s big problem in the past was its youth,” Finley remarked.  “Now we’re sprinkling a little experience along with the youth, which I think will pay dividends.”

On March 28, a little over a week before the start of the regular season, Grant played in the East-West Major League Baseball Classic to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  The charity exhibition game, which was held at Dodgers Stadium, featured more than a dozen future Hall of Famers including Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Tom Seaver.  Players were divided geographically into two teams of East and West.  During the pregame ceremonies, Grant, who was an accomplished singer who took bookings as an entertainer in his spare time, delighted the crowd with a soulful rendition of the National Anthem.  Grant pitched the eighth inning for the West but was unable to help his team win.  Sensing a good promotional opportunity, Charlie Finley called upon Grant to sing the National Anthem before the A’s April 13 home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.  This marked the first time an active player sang the Anthem before a major league game.  In addition to Grant’s singing, the home opener was also notable for the use of bright gold bases as part of a one-game experiment commissioner Bowie Kuhn allowed Finley to try.

Grant started the season in the all too familiar role of mop-up reliever.  Nevertheless, he made the most of the situation, throwing seven and two-thirds scoreless innings in six appearances through the first month of the campaign.  By late May, Grant sported a minuscule 1.57 ERA when he embarked on a five appearance stretch in which he gave up just one unearned run over nine and two-thirds innings while racking up four saves.  With the A’s record hovering around .500, the team began using Grant as their primary reliever to protect late game leads.  Despite thriving in the fireman role, Mudcat still was hoping for a chance to prove himself as a starter in Oakland.  “Everyone prefers starting,” the 34-year-old veteran said.  “There’s just something about starting and relieving.  Starters are still considered to be better pitchers, even when that isn’t true in all cases.  It’s something that’s left over from the past.  We’re still living in the past in some respects.”  After Grant secured Oakland victories with back-to-back saves on June 9 and 10 against his original club, the Cleveland Indians, the righty drew praise from A’s manager John McNamara.  “You can’t say anything but superlatives about Grant,” the skipper proclaimed.  “He’s been great.  He’s done the job every time we’ve called on him.”  The hurler was particularly stingy on opposing hitters during a month-long stretch from May 17 to June 16 in which he gave up just a single unearned run across 27 innings in 16 appearances, going 2-0 while picking up seven saves.  During the impressive stretch, the A’s record improved from 17-17 to 34-28.  Mudcat picked up his eleventh save on June 30 and in the process lowered his ERA to 0.93.  Aside from his stellar work on the mound, Grant was also showcasing his musical talents, making appearances at Oakland’s Jack London Inn night club.

With the emergence of Grant as one of the game’s top fireman, the A’s bullpen had a relief pitcher they could count on to consistently close out tight games, something the team had lacked for the past few seasons.  Based on the veteran’s postgame comments, it seemed he was becoming more accepting of pitching out of the bullpen.  “Don’t get me wrong, I’d still like to start,” Grant remarked.  “But there’s a lot to say about the bullpen.  There’s the drama involved and key situations where you have to produce or a game is lost.  It forces you to do your thing.”  Grant finished the first half of the season with a 4-0 record, 13 saves, and an otherworldly 0.79 ERA.  Despite his dominant pitching, Grant was not selected for the All-Star Game.  AL skipper Earl Weaver opted to only select starting pitchers to fill out the junior circuit’s roster for the Midsummer Classic, essentially underscoring Grant’s comments about starters being widely viewed as better pitchers than relievers.

When play resumed after the All-Star break, Grant picked up right where he left off, garnering saves in five straight appearances to close out the month of July.  Included in that stretch was a July 26 outing in which Grant protected a one-run lead with two scoreless innings over the New York Yankees to give Oakland the 4-3 win.  In the process, Grant collected his sixteenth save of the season while also securing starting pitcher Catfish Hunter’s fourteenth victory.  Hunter’s postgame praise of Grant highlighted the reliever’s importance to the club.  “In other years, I didn’t want to come out of the game because we didn’t have good relief pitchers,” Hunter stated.  “Now that we have Grant, I don’t worry.”  Securing Hunter victories was a running theme throughout the 1970 season for Mudcat as he ultimately saved eight of Catfish’s team-leading 18 wins.  Sportswriters had fun with the two hurlers having such similar nicknames—one scribe even began referring to them as “The Cat People.”  However, Grant was in some ways a victim of his own success.  After the veteran’s July 26 save against New York, McNamara was asked about the possibility of moving Grant out of the bullpen to start.  “Not a chance,” the manager said.  “His effectiveness in the bullpen is obvious.”

Although the acquisition of Grant gave Oakland a reliable reliever who could be counted on to secure victories in tight games, the club was still having trouble closing the gap the first-place Twins had opened up on them early in the season.  Many of Grant’s former teammates still called Minnesota home and, on August 9 and 10, he picked up saves number 19 and 20 at their expense.  These wins helped the A’s draw closer in the division race and by the middle of the month, the club had moved into second place and pulled to within three and a half games of the Twins.  However, Oakland lost ground with a disastrous 1-11 stretch during the latter part of August.  Then, on September 14—with the A’s eight games in arrears of the Twins—Finley abandoned any efforts to win the division when he sold Grant to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Two days later, the eccentric owner departed with another one of his key veterans when he sold outfielder Tommy Davis to the Chicago Cubs.  Finley’s late season moves drew criticism from members of the press as well as his own players but the team owner defended the sales explaining he had acquired Grant and Davis to finish first and didn’t need them to finish second.  Prior to his sale to Pittsburgh, Mudcat was putting the finishing touches on his finest season as a reliever with a 6-2 record and 1.82 ERA while successfully converting 24 of 25 save attempts.  In addition, Grant had proved to be a great fit in the A’s clubhouse, providing a strong veteran presence for the young team.  The well-traveled hurler would now be moving to his seventh organization and sixth in the space of four seasons.  Yet, in leaving Oakland, Grant expressed a level of disappointment that had not been present when he departed other teams.  “Everything I did was for the Oakland A’s,” Grant said after learning he was sold to Pittsburgh.  “You join the club, you put your worth into the club, you hurt for the club, you have an outstanding year for the club, and two weeks before the end of the season, someone (Finley) phones you that you’ve been sold.  Finley thanked me for the season I had and for the help I gave some of the players.  This really hurt.”

At the time of Grant’s sale to Pittsburgh, the Pirates were in the midst of a close three-team NL East pennant race with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs.  However, since the hurler had been acquired by the club after August 31, he was ineligible for postseason play should the Pirates win the NL East.  Nevertheless, Grant was still able to make a big impact in the pennant race.  On September 16, the righty made his first appearance with his new team, protecting a two-run lead with three scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies to help ensure a 5-3 victory before giving way to Pittsburgh’s fireman, Dave Giusti, in the ninth.  Grant’s outing impressed Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh who had never seen the veteran pitch.  “This was a nice unveiling,” the skipper said of Grant.  “He gave this club a real shot in the arm tonight.”  With Pittsburgh holding a two and a half game edge over both New York and Chicago, the club hosted the Mets for a crucial September 25-27 three-game series.  During the series opener, Grant was called upon to pitch with one out in the top of the seventh after a bases loaded walk by Giusti allowed the Mets to tie the score.  Grant induced New York’s number three hitter Cleon Jones to ground into an inning ending double play.  Pittsburgh then scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh, thus making Grant the pitcher of record in the 4-3 victory.  The following day, Grant once again entered a tied game during the top of the seventh inning, this time facing Ken Boswell with two out and runners on first and second.  Grant forced Boswell to ground out to him to end the threat.  Pittsburgh hitters repeated their heroics of the night before, scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh while Grant closed out the game to earn his second consecutive win.  The next day, the Pirates beat the Mets in the final game of the series to complete the sweep and clinch the NL East pennant.  Mets manager Gil Hodges later admitted he had passed on the chance to claim Grant through waivers, which had allowed Pittsburgh to acquire the veteran.  The Pirates were unable to ride their regular season momentum into the playoffs as they were subsequently swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS.  Although Grant was ineligible for Pittsburgh’s postseason roster, he did have a memorable moment during the NLCS, singing the National Anthem at Three Rivers Stadium prior to Game Two.  Mudcat finished 1970 with an 8-3 record, 24 saves, and a 1.86 ERA in 135 1/3 innings.  Because he was traded away from the AL, his 72 appearances did not lead the junior circuit but his 80 overall appearances split across the two leagues led all of baseball.  With his 24 saves for the year, Grant joined Ellis Kinder and one of his former pitching coaches Johnny Sain as the only hurlers to have achieved both a 20-win and 20-save season.  Technically, Grant is recognized as the first pitcher to accomplish the feat since Kinder’s and Sain’s respective 20-save campaigns took place in 1953 and 1954 before saves became an official MLB statistic in 1969.

During the offseason, the Pirates completed the Grant sale by sending outfield prospect Angel Mangual to Oakland.  Charlie Finley addressed Grant’s absence in the bullpen during a January 26 press conference to introduce new A’s manager Dick Williams.  “Grant did a great job last year,” Finley said.  “But he kept some of our other relief pitchers from getting a chance to show what they could do.”  However, despite Finley’s comments, according to Pirates general manager Joe L. Brown, the A’s owner expressed interest in reacquiring Grant in March.  “I told Charlie we were counting on Grant,” Brown explained.  “But if we ever decided to deal him, we’d try to give him first crack.”

Mudcat picked up right where he left off in 1970 with an excellent first two months to start his 1971 campaign.  While Pittsburgh’s fireman Dave Giusti was given the bulk of closing duties, Grant was regularly used in tight games and saw his share of save opportunities as well.  After a difficult April 14 outing in which the righty blew a save and was charged with the loss, he went on a 25-inning stretch without giving up a run.  Grant drew attention, not only for his success on the mound but also for his appearance.  Long known as one of the most stylish players of his day, Grant sported thick mutton chop sideburns that reflected the mod subculture that was growing in popularity.  In late May, the former 20-game winner spoke about his career renaissance in the bullpen.  “I’m having success at a late age.  I could have folded up, after not starting and falling into the relief pitching thing.  But I count it as another experience.”  At the end of May the veteran’s record stood at 3-1 with a 0.67 ERA and four of five save opportunities successfully converted.

Unfortunately, NL hitters began teeing off Grant in June as he posted a 5.32 ERA for the month and followed it up with an even more unsightly 5.82 mark in July.  After not giving up a home run during the first two months of the season, he was taken deep a combined eight times in June and July.  In addition, Grant had uncharacteristically been struggling with control issues throughout the campaign, allowing an average of more than three walks per nine innings.  By August 9, Grant’s ERA had climbed to 3.60 when Pittsburgh decided to part ways with the veteran and sold him back to the Oakland Athletics.  Grant was leaving a Pirates team that appeared poised to return to the postseason, comfortably sitting atop the NL East with a six and a half game edge over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals.  Fortunately for the righty, the A’s club he was rejoining looked to be an even safer bet to make the playoffs, leading the AL West by a commanding 13 1/2 game margin over the runner-up Kansas City Royals.

Shortly after learning of his sale back to Oakland, Grant was contacted by Finley who insisted the hurler immediately meet the team in Boston where the A’s were set to play the Red Sox in a doubleheader the following day.  Oakland manager Dick Williams wasted no time in using the veteran, bringing him in to relieve starter John “Blue Moon” Odom during the second game of the doubleheader.  Grant earned the save by pitching the final three and one-third innings of Oakland’s 7-5 victory.  Following the win, Williams spoke glowingly about Grant’s performance.  “I was thrilled,” the A’s skipper said.  “He was excellent, excellent, excellent.  He threw strikes and brought it in.  It looks like he picked up right where he left off last year.”  As Grant settled back in with Oakland, he quickly became impressed with improvements the club was making under the direction of their new manager, Williams.  “I’ve seen more guys give themselves up, like hit behind the runner, in one week than I did all last year,” Grant said.  “You’ve got to give Williams credit.  He’s done a tremendous job to orchestrate things.  He’s put things together.”

Grant impressed his managers with his work out of the bullpen for the A's and Pirates

Following his sale to the A’s, Grant reclaimed his pinpoint control which had abandoned him in Pittsburgh, pitching 10 innings for Oakland before issuing his first walk.  Home runs were initially a cause for concern as the righty surrendered three longballs in his first four appearances for the A’s.  However, from that point forward, he did not allow another batter to go deep on him for the remainder of the year.  Grant was generally used in close games and shared the fireman role with Rollie Fingers and Darold Knowles as each of the three pitchers saw their share of save opportunities.  On September 15, Grant earned the win, throwing three scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox.  With Kansas City’s loss to the California Angels later that evening, Oakland officially clinched the AL West.  The A’s finished the season 16 games ahead of the second-place Royals with a 101-60 record.  In his month and a half with Oakland, Grant went 1-0 while posting an excellent 1.98 ERA and successfully converting three of four save attempts.  Adding his totals from Pittsburgh, the veteran’s final ledger for 1971 was an overall mark of 6-3, supported by a respectable 3.17 ERA, and 10 saves.

With their division title victory, the A’s advanced to the postseason for the first time in four decades.  Oakland’s opponent in the ALCS was the defending World Series champion Baltimore Orioles who were also winners of the past two AL pennants.  Like Oakland, Baltimore easily clinched their division, posting a nearly identical 101-57 record.  Unfortunately, the youthful A’s inexperience showed against the playoff-tested O’s as they dropped the first two games of the series on the road in Baltimore despite sending a pair of 20-game winners, Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue, to the hill.  The series moved back to Oakland for Game Three where the A’s, facing elimination, started veteran right-hander Diego Segui.  Prior to the game, Grant sang the National Anthem in front of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum fans.  With the A’s down 5-2 in the top of the eighth inning, Grant entered the game to face the top of Baltimore’s order.  After surrendering a leadoff triple to Don Buford, the hurler settled down and dispatched of Paul Blair, Boog Powell, and Frank Robinson in succession.  Reggie Jackson took O’s starter Jim Palmer deep in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 5-3.  In what would ultimately be the final inning of his fourteen-year major league career, Grant quickly retired Andy Etchebarren and Brooks Robinson on fly outs before surrendering back-to-back singles to Davey Johnson and Mark Belanger.  Grant then ended Baltimore’s two-out threat by striking out Palmer.  After Gene Tenace and Mike Hegan were fanned to open the bottom of the ninth, Grant’s spot in the batting order came up.  Dick Williams pinch-hit slugger Curt Blefary for Grant.  Palmer mowed down Blefary to strike out the side and complete the sweep over the A’s, giving Baltimore its third consecutive AL pennant.  The Orioles were then defeated in a thrilling seven-game Fall Classic against the club that sold Grant to Oakland, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Grant had missed out on winning the World Series title with his sale from Pittsburgh to Oakland, the A’s had turned a corner from contender into division champion and were in good shape to make another postseason run in 1972.  However, at the end of November, Oakland decided to release Grant.  Charlie Finley called the pitcher personally to deliver the news.  The release of Grant was surprising considering he had been among the game’s best relief pitchers for the A’s in 1970 and had returned to the team for a strong finish to his 1971 campaign, all while providing veteran leadership to a young clubhouse.  Grant’s release perhaps can be traced to Finley not being interested in paying his lucrative salary, which Pittsburgh had increased to $60,000 prior to the 1971 season.  Finley was likely fine with absorbing a portion of Grant’s salary to obtain him for the stretch drive but parted ways with the hurler rather than pay his full salary for the upcoming 1972 campaign.  “This whole thing of being released means having to prove myself all over again,” Grant said.  “I figure if you do the job, you should get paid for it.  If I play for a smaller amount and do well, then we’re back into that again—my salary.”  Grant did his best to take the release in stride adding, “I want to remember the game of baseball as something nice, something I enjoyed playing.”  Although the possibility of retirement loomed, the 36-year-old still showed confidence in his abilities.  “They keep telling me I’m an old man and that I’m through, but I look around and see guys as old as me not doing as well.”

After being let go by Oakland it looked as if Grant might retire and pursue a full-time career as an entertainer.  However, Grant chose to continue playing professional baseball and joined his original club, the Cleveland Indians, for spring training.  “This is like being back home,” Grant said.  “This is where everything started for me.  I hope I can finish my career just as it began—pitching in Cleveland.”  Unfortunately, Grant was unable to make the Tribe’s Opening Day roster but the franchise did offer the veteran a chance to pitch for their Triple-A team in Portland.  Nevertheless, after a phone conversation with Charlie Finley, the hurler decided to return to the A’s organization for a third stint, this time in the dual role of reliever and pitching coach for Oakland’s Des Moines-based Triple-A affiliate, Iowa Oaks of the American Association.  “It’s a good deal.”  Grant said.  “I can continue to pitch and get some coaching experience.”  Grant’s deal with the Oaks also gave the righty flexibility.  “Charlie says if any big league club wants to sign me at any time this season he’ll let me go.  Actually, on my record, I don’t see how anybody let me go this year.  I’ll never go to a camp as a free agent like I did with the Indians.”

Grant pitched well for the Oaks, working as the team’s fireman, a role he had flourished in during parts of the past two seasons with the A’s.  However, with young reliever Rollie Fingers coming into his own and veteran hurlers Darold Knowles and Bob Locker also available to close out tight games, Oakland’s bullpen had the late innings covered.  Nevertheless, Grant remained hopeful for a call up to Oakland.  On August 3, the Oaks hosted the A’s for an exhibition game between the two clubs.  Oakland was in the midst of another excellent campaign, sitting atop the AL West with a six-game lead over the second-place Chicago White Sox.  The A’s won the exhibition game, 5-3, defeating the Oaks in extra innings with Grant taking the loss.  Sportswriter Ron Bergman, who covered the A’s beat for the Oakland Tribune and contributed to The Sporting News, was on hand for the game and printed an exchange between Grant and A’s pitching coach Bill Posedel in the August 26 edition of The Sporting News.  “You going to hang ‘em up after this year?”  Posedel asked Grant.  “Not as long as I know I can pitch better than some of the guys they’ve got up in the big leagues now,” Grant replied.  Bergman also printed another quote from Grant speaking to an Oakland beat writer.  “Don’t let them forget about me down here,” Grant said to the scribe.  The righty finished the season with a 5-5 record and an impressive 2.38 ERA while collecting 16 saves—a mark that trailed only Ron Tompkins among American Association pitchers.  Oakland captured their second consecutive AL West crown and won their first of three straight World Series championships.  Despite his solid pitching for Iowa, Grant was unable to earn a promotion to Oakland or draw interest from another club, a puzzling outcome considering his success with the A’s and the Pirates over the previous two campaigns.

After the 1972 season, Grant decided to retire, bringing an end to a professional career that began in 1954 when he left tiny Lacoochee to try out for the Cleveland Indians.  In 14 major league seasons, Grant compiled a 145-119 record with a 3.63 ERA and 54 saves.  With his playing career behind him, Mudcat chose to, once again, return to his original team, this time joining the Tribe as a broadcaster.  After several years in the booth with Cleveland, Grant made his way back to his final club, briefly working as a broadcaster for the A’s in 1979.  Grant also continued to be a sought-after entertainer for singing and public speaking engagements.  In 1992, Grant’s former teammate Rollie Fingers was elected to the Hall of Fame.  Fingers, who retired as the all-time saves leader in 1985, became just the second reliever, after Hoyt Wilhelm, to be voted into Cooperstown.  During Fingers’ acceptance speech, he recognized Grant for the key role the veteran played in helping him develop into a successful relief pitcher.  “I learned a lot from watching and in 1970, I had the opportunity to sit in the bullpen with a guy who was on his way out of the game,” Fingers said.  “He had some great years with Cleveland and Minnesota.  He was our stopper in 1970 in the bullpen.  I had the chance to sit and talk with him and watch him pitch and I learned a lot from this man and I’d like to thank him, Jim “Mudcat” Grant.  Thank you, Jim.”

At age 70, the multi-talented Grant displayed his skills as an author when he released The Black Aces:  Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners.  The book profiled each of the African-American pitchers to win 20 games in a season and also included Negro League hurlers who were denied the chance to play in the American and National Leagues due to the color barrier.  Among the hurlers profiled in Grant’s book was San Francisco native Mike Norris who won 22 games for the A’s in 1980.  Norris spoke of the impact that seeing Grant succeed as an African-American pitcher had on him during his childhood.  “Mud pitched here in Oakland when I was a kid, but he was at the end of his career.”  Norris said.  “What that let me know was that it was possible that a black pitcher could pitch in the big leagues.  That’s what Mud was to me.  He was reality.”

Grant and several of his fellow Black Aces made appearances at charity events and benefits.  In February 2007, President George W. Bush honored the Black Aces at the White House as part of an event celebrating Black History Month.  In addition, to Grant, fellow Black Aces Ferguson Jenkins, Dontrelle Willis, and Mike Norris were in attendance.  President Bush said he viewed the Black Aces as “a way not only to herald success, but to inspire others” and thanked Grant for “showing courage, character and perseverance.”  In May of that same year, Grant returned to the Oakland Coliseum for a pregame ceremony honoring the Black Aces.  Alongside Grant were Norris, Vida Blue, and Dave Stewart, each of whom posted 20-win seasons while pitching for the Athletics.  For the ceremony, the four hurlers wore Kansas City Monarchs jerseys made famous by Negro League pitching icon Satchel Paige.  Fittingly, Grant sang the National Anthem during the pregame festivities while Stewart threw out the first pitch.

On June 11, 2021 Grant passed away at age 85.  After learning of his passing, Stewart honored Grant on Twitter saying, “I can hear you singing now.  Sitting at the piano, putting on a Mudcat concert.  People who know you, and some who don’t making song requests.  What was once a small crowd has now turned into a big one.  You fill the room with happiness, laughter and love.  RIP Mud!  You are loved.”

----by John Tuberty

Follow me on Twitter @BloggerTubbs

Sources: Baseball Reference, The Sporting News via SABR’s Paper of Record, San Bernardino Sun via California Digital Newspaper Collection and SABR’s Paper of Record, Albany NY Knickerbocker News Union Star via Fulton Newspapers and SABR Paper of Record, Mudcat Grant SABR bio, SI Vault, Rollie Fingers’ Hall of Fame speech via National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum You Tube channel, George W. Bush White House Archives, Dave Stewart’s Twitter, Montreal Gazette via Google News Archive, ESPN, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Tom Sabellico, and Pat O’Brien-The Black Aces: Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners (Aventine Press), Danny Peary-We Played the Game: 65 Players Remember Baseball’s Greatest Era, 1947-1964 (Hyperion), Terry Pluto-The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a Thirty-Year Slump (Gray & Company, Publishers), Bruce Markusen-A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s (Saint Johann Press)

Quotes credit:
-Charlie Finley quote about bringing in seasoned players is from p.39 of the December 20, 1969 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Grant quote about preferring starting over relieving is from p.17 of the May 23, 1970 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-John McNamara quote praising Grant is from p.12 of the June 11, 1970 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and was retrieved from California Digital Newspaper Collection via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Grant quote about enjoying the drama of pitching out of the bullpen is from p.14 of the July 1, 1970 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and was retrieved from California Digital Newspaper Collection via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Catfish Hunter quote about Grant is from p.8 of the July 27, 1970 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and was retrieved from California Digital Newspaper Collection via SABR access to Paper of Record
-John McNamara quote about not moving Grant out of the bullpen is from p.30 of the August 15, 1970 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Grant quote about trade from Oakland is from p.8 of the October 3, 1970 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Danny Murtaugh quote about Grant is from the September 17, 1970 edition of the Nassua NY Newsday and was retrieved from Fulton Newspapers via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Charlie Finley addressing Grant’s absence in the A’s bullpen is from the January 27, 1971 edition of the Herkimer NY Evening Telegram and was retrieved from Fulton Newspapers via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Joe L. Brown quote about Charlie Finley trying to reacquire Grant is from p.9 of the August 28, 1971 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Grant quote about career resurgence as reliever is from p.29 of the May 25, 1971 edition of the San Bernardino Sun and was retrieved from California Digital Newspaper Collection via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Dick Williams quote about Grant and Grant’s quote about Williams improving the A’s are from p.10 of the September 11, 1971 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Grant quote about being released by Oakland is from p.47 of the December 11, 1971 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Grant quote about joining Cleveland is from p.41 of the March 11, 1972 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Grant quote about joining Iowa Oaks is from the April 8, 1972 edition of the Albany NY Knickerbocker News Union Star and was retrieved from Fulton Newspapers via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Bill Posedel and Grant quotes to each other and Grant quote to Oakland beat writer are from p.5 of the August 26, 1972 edition of The Sporting News and was retrieved via SABR access to Paper of Record
-Rollie Fingers quote about Grant was transcribed from his 1992 Hall of Fame acceptance speech and retrieved from the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum You Tube video of the acceptance speech
-Mike Norris quote about Grant is from p.232 of Black Aces
-George W. Bush quotes about the Black Aces was retrieved from George W. Bush White House Archives
-Dave Stewart quote about Grant is from Dave Stewart’s Twitter

Cards: Mudcat Grant cards-1971 Topps, 1972 Topps, crop of picture from 1991 Swell Baseball Greats, crop from 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates Picture Pack, Black Aces book cover; Catfish Hunter 1987 Mother’s Cookies, Ellis Kinder 1954 Topps, Johnny Sain 2003 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites, John McNamara 1970 Topps, Danny Murtaugh 1971 Topps, Dick Williams 1972 Topps, Rollie Fingers 1972 Topps, Mike Norris 1984 Fleer

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  1. Great job on highlighting the overlooked late-career run of Mudcat Grant as a fireman! Your article beautifully captures his transition from a starting pitcher to a reliable reliever, showcasing his versatility and resilience. It's impressive how Grant excelled in high-pressure situations and became a key asset for his teams. Your piece sheds light on an important aspect of Grant's career that often goes unnoticed. Well done

    1. Sam, thank you for taking the time to read my article and leave such a nice comment!