March 26, 2023

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

The bullpen coach, Ted Wilks, objected to Grant’s wording and got into an argument with him. Grant then went to the clubhouse and left the ballpark, later saying that Wilks had made a racist remark.

The Sporting News reported that Wilks had tried to apologize as soon as he made the remark, but Grant wouldn’t accept it. He was suspended for the last two weeks of the season for leaving the ballpark without permission, though he quickly apologized to his manager, Jimmy Dykes, for having done that.

After three-plus seasons with the Twins, Grant pitched mostly in relief — for the Dodgers in 1968, the Montreal Expos and the St. Louis Cardinals in 1969, and the Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970 and 1971. He retired in 1971 with a record of 145-119 and 54 saves.

Grant was a TV analyst for Indians games in the 1970s, worked in their community relations department and supported groups fighting childhood illiteracy and drug use.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1980. Information about his survivors was not immediately available.

Grant’s experiences with racism and his interest in Black history inspired him to write “The Black Aces: Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners” (2006).

The book, a collaboration with Tom Sabellico and Pat O’Brien, profiled 13 Black pitchers, including Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who, playing in the National League, was the first Black 20-game victor, having achieved that distinction in 1951.

President George W. Bush honored Grant and several of the other “Black Aces” at a White House ceremony in February 2007 marking National African-American History Month.

“At certain points in our past, we didn’t have a lot of African-American pitchers,” Mr. Bush said. “I want to thank you, Mudcat, for showing courage, character and perseverance, and also thank you for setting an example.”

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