Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #33 Jim Mudcat Grant
Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we remember the career of Jim “Mudcat” Grant.
By Vince Guerrieri
When the Indians traded Jim “Mudcat” Grant to the Twins during the 1964 season, he was worried.
The Florida native told Sports Illustrated, “The Twins kept me in the league.” He had a 22-6 career record against them. But he went on to do great things with the Twins, becoming the first black pitcher in the American League to win 20 games and to win a World Series game, doing both in 1965, when the Twins took the Dodgers to seven games before succumbing. Grant ended up getting a World Series ring with the Pirates, going 5-3 for the Bucs in 1971 in a relief role.
Mudcat – so called because his teammates in the minors thought he was from Mississippi and in those less enlightened times, called him “Mississippi Mudcat” – was drafted by the Indians in 1954, and broke into the big leagues in 1958. His first roommate with the Tribe was Larry Doby, the first black ballplayer in the American League, then in his second tour with the Indians.
Grant’s best year for the Tribe was 1961 when he went 15-7. He was dealt in 1964 for George Banks and Lee Stange, proving that the Indians turning up on the short end of trades isn’t a recent development.
In 1965, as a starter, he went 21-7. His 21 wins led the American League, as did six shutouts – and 34 home runs given up. He also made his second All-Star team, pitching two innings and giving up two runs (both earned) on two hits before the hometown crowd at Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota. He was also named to the American League All-Star team in 1963, when the game was hosted by his home team, the Indians, but didn’t play.
He was more than a pitcher. During the offseason, he had a nightclub act, Mudcat and the Kittens. He sang the National Anthem before baseball games, and sang “What a Wonderful World” at the memorial service in 2011 for former teammate Harmon Killebrew. He’s a familiar face on TV, having been interviewed for “Pride Against Prejudice: The Larry Doby Story” and on the Indians Roundtable. And he spent several years as the television voice of the Tribe in the 1970s.
Grant finished his career with a record of 145-119 and a 3.63 ERA. He lives in Los Angeles, and has returned to the Cleveland area in 2008 to throw out the first pitch on the 50th anniversary of his Major League debut, and in 2010 for a Black Heritage Celebration by the Cleveland Cavaliers.