Randi Chapman of Potomac, Maryland, intended to purchase some team merchandise at the Minnesota Twins stadium store while in town on business. As she left the store, Jim “Mudcat” Grant was selling books outside, in between late afternoon showers before a Twins game.
“I was directed [by her family] to get a [Twins] shirt,” said Chapman to the MSR, moments after she purchased Grant’s book The Black Aces. At the time of purchase, she admittedly didn’t know who the author was, let alone his historical significance — she guessed he once played baseball.
Grant is one of 13 “Aces” — Black hurlers who won 20 or more games in a season. “I was first in the American League,” he pointed out proudly. He also is the first Black pitcher to win a World Series game for an AL club, when Grant won the first and sixth games for the 1965 Minnesota Twins. He also was the first Black pitcher to win 20 games in a minor league season as well.
“We all know about Jackie Robinson… We don’t know enough about Joe Black and Don Newcombe” and other Black baseball players, noted Grant.
Chapman admitted that she’s not much of a baseball fan but males in her family are. “I assumed baseball was what the men did,” she said. Therefore learning that her grandmother is a big baseball fan caught her by surprise.
“I don’t remember my grandmother watching baseball when I was growing up, but now she watches all the time. I didn’t realize that she is a huge fan. She lives in Atlanta and she’s a Braves fan. She screams at the TV and you can’t call her during the game. If they are losing, she’d be mad.”
Her eight-year-old son is now playing the sport, following in her husband’s footsteps who played baseball as a youngster, said Chapman.
When asked if he was named head of baseball for a day, Grant said one of his ‘official’ acts would be to get out in the community, beating the streets for the sport. “I would say, ‘Hey, remember when you used to come to the game. We’re here to tell you what the game is still all about. We would like you to come and see our ball game and pull for African Americans like you used to,” he explained.
“You should not let the history of the game get away,” advised Grant. “I think that’s the message I would be telling the Black fans today.”
After a Black reporter, using her phone, took a photo of Chapman and Grant, an impromptu baseball history lesson took place.
“Thank you for imparting your knowledge” about Grant’s significance to the game, said Chapman. “I would have kept on walking.”
More on baseball and why Blacks aren’t watching or playing it in “Another View” in this week’s MSR.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.