Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant, American League’s first Black 20-game winner, dies at 85

Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant, the first black pitcher in the American Leagues to record a 20-win season, died on Thursday at the age of 85.

“The Minnesota Twins are deeply saddened by the loss of Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant, a key part of the franchise’s early years in Minnesota and linchpin of the starting rotation on the record-setting 1965 club,” a Twins statement read.

Grant pitched 14 seasons with seven different teams in MLB from 1958-1971, but it was his tenures with the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins that would earn him most fame.. He earned his second All-Star bid in 1965 while leading the league with 21 wins, as the Twins’ would be on their way to win their first AL pennant in team history.

In 1961, Grant went 21-7 on the season. It was historic as it was the first 20-win season by a Black pitcher in American League history. He posted a 3.30 ERA while recording 142 strikeouts and 61 walks in 270.1 innings. Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe was the first Black player in MLB history to win 20 games when he achieved the feat in 1951.

Over the course of his 14 year MLB career, Grant had a 145–119 record in 571 games, while starting in 293 games nd throwing 89 complete games and finishing 160 of them, 18 shutouts, 53 saves, with 2,442 innings pitched on a 3.63 ERA. He also hit six home runs and 80 RBI’s in his career, with one of those home runs coming in Game 2 of the 1965 World Series.

In 2007, President George W. Bush honored Grant and “The Black Aces” at a White House ceremony for Black history month: “At certain points in our past, we didn’t have a lot of African American pitchers,” Bush said that day. “I want to thank you, Mudcat, for showing courage, character and perseverance, and also thank you for setting an example.”

“Will never forget his smile, his voice or the way he could light up a room,” Twins president Dave St. Peter said on Twitter.

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