Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Major League pitcher with 14 seasons under his belt, had a career filled with firsts.
Despite being awarded a scholarship to play football and baseball at Florida A&M University, Mudcat had to drop out in order to help his family through a spell of financial hardship. Ever determined, Mudcat was signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Indians just prior to the start of the 1954 season.
After a time in the Minor Leagues, Mudcat made his Major League debut in 1958 with a complete game win against the Kansas City Athletics. He pitched well for Cleveland, but was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1964. His pitching career blossomed in Minnesota, where he led his team to the World Series in 1965 after finishing the regular season with a 21-7 record. He became the first black pitcher to win 20 games in the American League. In the World Series, Mudcat pitched two complete game wins — becoming the first black pitcher to win a World Series game in the American League. He even hit a three-run home run in Game 6.
After the 1966 season, Mudcat’s role changed and he was assigned to the bullpen as a relief pitcher. In one more starting appearance, he became the first ever pitcher for the new Montreal Expos team in 1969. Although he got shelled — allowing six hits and three runs in just one inning — Mudcat once again made baseball stat history. He retired at the end of the 1971 season.
Mudcat’s post-player career included work as a broadcaster for the Kansas City Athletics and as publicity director for the North American Softball League. Later, he wrote and published a book entitled 15 Black Aces. This publication honored the exclusive “club” of 15 black pitchers to win 20 in a single season. In 2007, President George W. Bush welcomed Mudcat to the White House, along with fellow 20-game winners Ferguson Jenkins, Dontrelle Willis and Mike Norris. On April 14, 2008, Mudcat was invited to throw out the first pitch at an Indians game to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his major league debut.
On June 12, 2021, Jim “Mudcat” Grant passed away at the age of 85, leaving behind a stellar and honorable career in baseball.