Tuesday, June 9, 2009

# 111 -- Jim "Mudcat" Grant

Jim "Mudcat" Grant

People see this card and immediately see the mutton chops. However Mudcat Grant is a heck of a lot more than a set of bushy sideburns. He was a good starting pitcher for the Indians and Twins through the late 50's and early 60's. When he won 20 with the Twins in 1965 (he also won 2 games in the World Series and hit a homer that year) he became only the 3rd black pitcher to do that (following Don Newcombe and Sam Jones). He's written a book called "The Black Aces" (visit Mudcat's site) about the 13 men who've done so (Newcombe, Jones, Grant, Bob Gibson, Earl Wilson, Ferguson Jenkins, Vida Blue, Al Downing, J.R. Richard, Mike Norris, Dwight Gooden, Dave Stewart and Dontrelle Willis).

When Jim Grant came up to the Indians, he got to room with his idol, Larry Doby. I don't know if Doby remained his idol for long. It was Doby that gave him his famous nickname by saying he was as "ugly as a Mississippi mudcat." (A mudcat is a bottom dwelling catfish.) Fortunately, Jim Grant has a heart of gold and a great sense of humor and he's been proud of his nickname. There were 2 other guys named Jim Grant to play major league baseball, but only one Mudcat.

Mudcat struggled in the late 60's until he got to St. Louis in late 1969 when the Expos didn't want him any longer (Note: when an expansion team doesn't want you, things look bleak.) Red Schoendienst put him in the bullpen and he was good. He spent 1970 as the A's closer doing very well. He also pitched out of the pen for the Pirates in 1971, but missed out on a World Series ring when Charlie Finley purchased him at the end of the year for the stretch run. If Charlie Finley was willing to part with cash for you, he must think you're pretty special. Supposedly, Mudcat was the first player Finley convinced to put his first name on the back of his jersey. I guess it's OK that Suzuki doesn't do that in Seattle.

However, that was the end of the line for Mudcat. He spent 1972 at the A's AAA team in Iowa, but never got the call back to the big leagues. Mudcat's now a baseball ambassador. He signs baseball cards if you want to send to him in the mail. He makes appearances at the Negro League Museum in Kansas City. He basically loves to go places to meet people, smile and talk about baseball. Can't think of a better thing to say about a guy.

1972 Feature
June 9, 1972 was a Friday with new weekend series starting. Don Sutton lost his first game of the year to the Pirates thanks in part to 1st inning errors on Bobby Valentine, Steve Garvey and Bill Russell. Steve Blass of the Pirates threw a 3-hitter, though. The Cardinals beat the Padres 3-2 on a homer by Joe Torre in the top of the 9th. Bob Gibson and Bill Greif threw complete games in 2:05.

My Game of the Day, though, will be a rainy night in Boston. The Angels score 3 runs in the top of the 6th on homers by Bob Oliver and Leroy Stanton, 5-5. Rico Petrocelli sends one out to left-center to lead off the Sox 6th. Bill Lee comes out to relieve Marty Pattin in the top of the 7th and is ready to face pinch-hitter Syd O'Brien when the game is delayed and never restarted. Even though he didn't throw a pitch, Bill Lee gets credit for an appearance and a Game Finished. However, he didn't get the save.

That game marked the end of Roger Repoz' career. His card comes along a lot later. Suffice it to say that he blazed the way for guys like Kevin Maas in that he was touted as the next great Yankee slugger, but never fulfilled potential. Roger struck out as a pinch-hitter in this rain-shortened game, dropping his season average to .333 (1 hit and 2 strikeouts) and was never heard from again.

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