FAMU community mourns death of former MLB pitcher and Rattler Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida A&M University is mourning the death of Rattler Jim “Mudcat” Grant, who played in the MLB for 14 seasons and was the first Black pitcher in American League history to win 20 games.
The Minnesota Twins announced Grant’s passing on Saturday. The Lacoochee, Florida, native was 85 years old.
“Florida A&M University and Rattlers everywhere join Major League Baseball and the family of Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant in mourning his loss,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “His contributions to the game and the legacy he paved have continued to inspire the African American community and those who enjoy America’s National Pastime.”
Grant was one of seven children, and he was a tri-sport athlete at Moore Academy, a historically Black school in Dade City, Florida. He earned an athletic scholarship to play both football and baseball at Florida A&M, the press release says.
Grant mainly played third base and was a backup running back under legendary head coach Jake Gaither while at FAMU. After his first year in Tallahassee, Grant signed an amateur free agent contract with the Cleveland Indians prior to the 1954 season, the release says.
Grant advanced through the minors and ultimately made his major league debut in 1958.
“His best season with the Indians came in 1961, when he went 15-9 and voted to the All-Star team for the first time,” the release says.
Grant’s career record was 145-119 through 293 starts and 278 relief appearances during his 14 seasons in the league. He made two All-Star teams and had his history-making 21-win season in 1965 with Minnesota. Grant also became the first Black pitcher in the American League to win a World Series game in that year, leading the Twins to victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers in games one and six.
Following his time in Cleveland and Minnesota, Grant played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates. He had 54 saves in his career once he retired in 1971.
Grant worked as a TV analyst for Cleveland and Oakland once his playing days were done. Additionally, he was a pitching instructor in the minor leagues. Grant made it his mission to promote baseball within the Black community after there was a decline in participation, the release says.
He published a book in 2006 highlighting the lives of 13 Black pitchers who had won 20 games in an MLB season, titled “The Black Aces.”
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