AL's first Black 20-game winner, 'Black Aces' author Jim 'Mudcat' Grant dies

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 Pitcher Jim
Jim "Mudcat" Grant was the AL's first 20-game winner while leading the Minnesota Twins to a pennant in 1965. (Photo by Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Minnesota Twins great and "Black Aces" co-author Jim "Mudcat" Grant has died at 85 years old.

The Twins announced the news Saturday. No cause of death was provided.

“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 reads.

Grant pitched 14 seasons with seven different teams in MLB from 1958-1971. He spent his first seven with the Cleveland Indians before joining the Twins in 1964, where he made his greatest impact on the game. He earned his second All-Star bid in 1965 while leading the league with 21 wins en route to the Twins' first AL pennant.

His 21-7 effort 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. 

Grant pitched three games in the World Series that year against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He won two, including a complete-game 5-1 win in Game 6. He also led the Twins' offense that game with a three-run home run. The Dodgers won the series with Sandy Koufax on the mound in Game 7.

"I never will forget that," Grant told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2014. "My mother was in the stands. It was a tough Series to lose, and of course that was the game [Game 7] that Sandy Koufax pitched. ... We lost and we didn't get back to it, but it was a great Series. ...

"I have 34 great grandbabies. They all know about 1965 and being in the World Series and being an All-Star."

Grant co-authored "The Black Aces" in 2006 chronicling his 20-win season and celebrating baseball's early Black 20-game winners. 

Grant posted a 145-119 career record with a 3.63 ERA. He tallied 1,267 career strikeouts and 849 career walks in 2,442 innings over 571 appearances. After retirement, he worked as a broadcaster for the Indians and was a vocal advocate for Black participation in sports

"The Cleveland Indians family is deeply saddened by the loss of Jim "Mudcat" Grant, a true fan favorite on both the playing field and in the broadcast booth," Indians senior vice president Bob DiBiasio said in a statement Saturday.

The Twins held a moment of silence for Grant prior to Saturday's game against the Houston Astros. 

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