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Jim “Mudcat” Grant (1935–2021), first Black American League pitcher to win 20 games

by Linnea Crowther

Jim “Mudcat” Grant was a Major League Baseball player who was the first Black pitcher to win 20 games in a season in the American League.

MLB career

After playing in the minor leagues for four seasons, Grant made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1958. In 1964, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins, where he would have some of the best years of his career. It was the following season when Grant became the first Black pitcher in the American League to win 20 games – Don Newcombe (1926–2019) had been the first to so do in the National League, in 1951. In that same season, Grant became the first Black pitcher in the American League to win a World Series game, though Twins lost the Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Grant was with the Twins until 1967, then played for several other teams before his 1971 retirement. He was an All-Star in 1963 and 1965.

In later years, Grant was the Publicity Director for the North American Softball League as well as a broadcaster and a baseball historian. He wrote the 2007 book “The Black Aces, Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners,” focusing on the 15 “Black Aces” who won more than 20 games in a season.

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Notable quote

“When I joined the Indians there were just four black starting pitchers in major league baseball and even though Jackie Robinson had broken through, people were still not comfortable with black pitchers. Bob Gibson was leading the way at that time and Al Jackson was pitching well with the Mets, but black pitchers back then were scarce and things were changing slowly. It’s the same way people question whether or not a black quarterback is smart enough to play the game. It was similar with black catchers too for a long time. They figured a black catcher wouldn’t be able to call a game, which is ridiculous, because Elston Howard and Roy Campanella were some of the very best.” —from an interview for This Great Game

Tributes to Jim “Mudcat” Grant

Full obituary: Twin Cities Pioneer Press

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