The Twins Hooked Whopper in Mudcat Grant Standout on Mound
­ Expert Jazz Musician, Too / By MAX NICHOLS TWIN CITIES, Minn.


Take James Timothy Grant to a refined gathering at a New England estate and you will find he's the center of attraction; talking baseball and music or teaching a 12-year-old girl to dance. Wander into a jazz night club with this same 30-year-old man and you will find he's the Mudcat, a swinger who can sing with the professionals and dance with the fun-lovers. Talk with him about his poor but proud upbringing in Lacoochee, Fla., and you will find he remembers with a laugh that he "used to eat possum like it was a steak" as a boy. And he remembers with a frank, direct tone that he once worked in a lumber mill for $26 a week. Now walk out to the ball park and watch Jim Grant pitch. He has confidence that expects to win and an arm that can challenge a batter with a fast ball. "All my life I've had a dream," said Jim. That's not hard to believe after witnessing the many ways in which this Twins' pitcher has developed his abilities and polished his personality. On September 25, 1962, when he blanked the Senators, 5-0, on a one-hitter, Jim became the first Negro to win 20 games in the American League. And his dream, much loftier, was so close to reality his eyes were bright with excitement. "It sounds impossible," said Grant. "But I'm beginning to think I might make it. I've always wanted to build a large house, something like an apartment house, so my mother, brother, sisters and their families will all have a good place to live."

Dreaming of Pay Hike

Jim was thinking of the dreams that might be realized with a World Series check, plus a large raise for his biggest season. He was maneuvering for position to bargain for well over a $40,000 salary next season. That's a big jump from the $27,500 (guesstimated) Grant made for this year. But the six-foot, 185-pound righthander feels he has earned it as the "stopper" for the Twins in their march toward the American League pennant. "Jim has won our big games for us all season," said Manager Sam Mele. "He has stopped our losing streaks and beaten the tough clubs. He's done the job that Camillo Pascual used to do." Pascual, a 20-game winner in 1962 and 1963, did not win a game from June 8 until September 11. And it was during those summer months in between that Grant took charge of the Twins' fortunes every fourth day. He pitched 252 innings in winning his first 20 victories, going the nine-inning route 14 times. In all that time, he walked only 55 batters while striking out 131. But, as Mele said, most important were against whom and when Grant won. He defeated contenders for 11 of those 20 triumphs, beating Chicago four times, Baltimore three, Cleveland three and Detroit once.

Blanked Chisox Twice

And he did it impressively, holding Chicago to two earned runs in 36 innings during those four victories. Twice he shut out the White Sox. In September, he faced Chicago at Comiskey Park when it seemed Al Lopez had his Sox poised to cut down the Twins' big lead. Because of an error, Grant fell behind, 2-0, in the first inning, and it seemed Chicago would cut the lead to four games. "A lot of pitchers might get discouraged getting behind in a pressure game like this," said Mele. "But when Grant came into the dugout, he said: "Thatıs the last run they will get off me." It was. Grant attacked the Sox as if he were ahead instead of behind. The Twins won the game, 3-2, for Grant's eighteenth victory. His next time out, he shut out Boston, 2-0, and built the Twins' lead to nine games with only 16 to play. "I've had five or six games that have meant a lot to us at the time," said Grant. "I never had the job of being the 'stopper' in a pennant race before. But I find I like it. "I feel like every time I win one of these games, it's good for me as well as for the club. The more I win, the better I will be at this sort of thing in the future." Grant was the winningest pitcher In the American League at the time he was talking. But it's the significance of his victories in a pennant race that gives him the greatest feeling of accomplishment. Nine times he put an end to losing ways for the Twins. Three times he was the only pitcher to beat Cleveland in a series-saving the Twins from sweeps.

Plagued by Tendonitis

And to add a touch of drama to Jim's high in an eight-year major league career, he had to pitch for two months with both knees wrapped in cloth bandages because of tendonitis. Moreover, he won eight of nine decisions during this time. Jim was born on August 13, 1935, in Lacoochee, where he was raised. His father died when he was a boy. His mother did housework to keep the family going. Jim went to Florida A&M on an athletic scholarship, playing football and baseball. "I hardly ever pitched in high school or college," Grant said. "Mostly I played third base, because I could throw hard. I guess I have played about everywhere. "After my second year of college, I had to drop out to help support my mother. I guess the Cleveland organization heard about my leaving school. I was asked to try out with the Indianapolis club at Daytona, Fla. (in 1954):" Fred Merkle, former standout first baseman of the New York Giants and famed for the Merkle boner, had scouted Grant. He worked out at third base, short-stop and first base before he pitched. "They didn't tell me where to work out," Grant said. They just told me which diamond to go to. They were about to release me when Merkle told them I could pitch. So I tried that and signed as a pitcher. "They told me they would put $500 in my envelope if I would sign. I said fine. But I guess they found out how bad I wanted to sign. They didn't give me anything. I never got a bonus. They were very good to me, though, and helped me. I always felt the Cleveland organization treated me well."

Wow! $250 a Month

Just making $250 a month in minor league baseball was big money to Grant then. Now, having been a consistent winner for several years, Grant helps the family back in Lacoochee. "I tell my mother she doesn't have to work any more," the Mudcat said. "But when I go down there and surprise them, I find out she's been working. She works just to have something to do after working so hard all of her life." In his first year in pro baseball, 1962, Grant won 21 games and lost five for Fargo-Moorhead in the Northern League. It wasn't until this year-only a few hours away in the Twin Cities of Minnesota-that Grant again had a chance to win that many games. After a 66-62 record in more than six years at Cleveland, Jim was traded, June 15, 1969, to Minnesota for Lee Stange, third baseman George Banks and about $80,000. He had a 12-10 record last year for the Twins-adding to a 2-3 mark at Cleveland. "This club has the talent to go a long way," Grant said after last season. "We just have to go down to spring training and work on fundamentals. We gave away too many runs. But we can change that." A good fielder and good hitter for a pitcher, Grant was acquired partly because he is such a good all-round athlete. And he jumped right into Mele's drills on fundamentals this spring. "I wanted Grant in the first place because he can help himself so many ways," said Mele. "You can leave him in a tight game a little longer, because he can hit. And I keep his name on my lineup card as a possible pinch-hitter. He always has been a good fielder." In Grant's eighteenth victory this year, at Chicago, a run was given up because a runner was allowed to advance from first base on a ball thrown to home plate instead of to second base. "Last year that happened nearly every game," said Grant. "This year, I would say it has happened less than a dozen times all season -maybe five or six. Next year, we will cut out that five or six. Everyone has played much better this year and that is one reason we have been winning." There were other changes. It has been well publicized that Grant learned to throw a sharp-breaking curve from pitching coach Johnny Sain. Previously, he had only a slow curve that was not effective. Sain helped him improve the slow curve as well as learn the new pitch.

Jim Credits His Tutor

And Grant never hesitated to give Sain his credit, just as he never hesitated to give his teammates credit for scoring runs for him. "I feel if I hold the other club to two or three runs, I am doing my job," said Grant. "I have always given up about a hit an inning. And I give up quite a few home runs. I think that's because my control is good. Iım always around the plate." But of the first 32 homers Grant gave up while winning 20, he could remember only three that resulted in losses for him. "Norm Cash hurt me with one in Detroit," he said, "and so did Joe Pepitone in New York and Rocky Colavito of Cleveland. One of the biggest reasons I have won so many games is that our club has scored so many runs for me." In only three of his victories did Grant have to hold the opposition to less than three runs to win. However, in eight of his complete games he did just that, including his shutouts. He had an earned run average of 3.37 when he was reaching for No. 21, but he showed his pride in his pitching after a 17-5 victory at Boston.

Unhappy over Homers

"I know I won," he snapped after giving up four homers, "but I don't have to be happy about the way I did it." Grant was at his best this year pitching every fourth day like clockwork. Pitching with two days' rest in the spring threw him off stride early in June. Volunteering for a relief job late in June threw him off again. However, he was not sorry about either. "With a chance for a championship season, you do anything you can to help the club;" he said simply. Grant had to shorten his stride in July to compensate for his sore knees. He couldn't throw his weight onto his left knee, so he took a short stride and then continued his motion for two more steps.

"My arm hurts a little on the outside of the bicep," he pointed out. "But that is not a critical place. I don't think it will hurt my elbow or shoulder." It didn't. Grant intends to continue his off-season work with a jazz group in Cleveland. They are hooked professionally around the Cleveland area. And Jim thinks he might have a post-baseball future in entertainment. "I try not to mix it with baseball," he said. "I want to find out if I can entertain on my own merit. But being in baseball has helped me get started. And it would be nice to find out while I still am in baseball." Late this season, Grant was invited with the rest of the Twins' players for an early evening gathering at the New England home of Jim Hovey, a professional photographer who makes commercial movies, including the Twins' public relations films. Jim was easily the star of the evening. His poise was impressive as he talked with guests who knew nothing about baseball.

Fourth Shutout for Jim

The next day, he pitched his fourth shutout of the season. It was his nineteenth victory-one step from a large share of his goal. "Now," he said, "I can think of No. 20." That victory followed in his 5-0 one-hitter against Washington, September 25. In the World Series, Mudcat gets his chance to bring his "apartment" dream to reality.