Jim Mudcat Grant from Cool of the Evening
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Mudcat Grant

Jim Mudcat Grant baseball essay

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There was no high school in the Lacoochie, Florida, a lumber town of about 1,000 people straight west of Orlando. So Jim Grant rode the school bus seven miles to Moore Academy High School in Dade City.

His father died when Grant was two, the family was poor and Jim liked sports, which meant staying long after the school bus left with no car to take him home. So he hitched rides back home, or walked.

He grew up to be 6-foot-1, 190-pounds of what was said to be all muscle, and he could play basketball, football and baseball. That interested college football programs and baseball scouts. It was his smile and buoyant personality that attracted fans.

He had a sense of humor about himself, and his pitching, long after his professional debut in Fargo, North Dakota in 1954.

Before the 1964 season, which began in Cleveland and ended in Minnesota, Grant claimed he "still pitched like a converted infielder." So when Satchell Paige showed Grant some of his odder pitches, Grant began to experiment with his own odd deliveries and came up with the "kickapoo pitch," the "hop and jumper" and the "cloud ball," which he noted "gets a little wet from the air."

That would be a spitball.

Grant never denied he threw a spitball, and was frank about plenty of other things.

Can't defy age

"You lose something every year you throw," Grant insisted. "If a pitcher says he is just as strong as last year, he is just a liar."

Grant said every year he ran a little slower, "so there's no reason to expect I can throw as fast."

Heavily influenced by Viola Grant, his mother, his vibrant personality led him to launch a nightclub act. It wasn't a gimmick that played on his role as an athlete -- he really could sing, dance and entertain.

Years after his mother died, he maintained she taught him his only philosophy of life: Live simple. Live prayerful. And never ask more from a person than you would expect from yourself.

And how did he get that nickname?

The stories from his own tongue have changed from time to time, but they all involve a minor-league teammate. One story is someone called him Mudcat during tryout camp in Daytona Beach, Florida. Another has a Fargo first baseman named LeRoy Irby concocting the name.

You don't have to bother to check. Irby and Grant were indeed teammates in Fargo in 1954. And Fargo is where Julious "Swampfire" Grant, Mudcat's brother, supposedly got his nickname.

Supposedly.


Where are the 1965 Minnesota Twins?

 


James Grant is reported to have been born in Florida in 1935, although he claimed where he came from they didn't have birth certificates, they just carved birth information into a tree.


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