Saturday, September 4, 2010

Buffalo's Incredible, Frank Grant


Second Baseman Frank Grant, front row 2nd from right - He is widely considered
to have been the greatest African-American player of the 19th century. 

  Born in Pittsfield in 1865, Ulysses Franklin "Frank" Grant, pitched and caught in amateur games there and in Plattsburgh, New York, while still a teenager. He signed his first professional contract with Meriden, Connecticut, (Eastern League) in 1886, but the team folded and Frank moved to Buffalo. Grant was in fact one of five African-Americans playing in the otherwise all-white minor leagues that year, on teams from Kansas to Connecticut.  The next day, a local newspaper announced Grant’s arrival by describing him as “a Spaniard.” In Buffalo, he took the International Association by storm. During his first season here, he led his team with a .340 batting average. The next year he batted .366, but more amazing were his power numbers. 
Frank Grant
   Despite standing less than 5'8" and weighing just 155 pounds, Grant led all league batsmen in slugging, with 27 doubles, ten triples, and 11 homers in 105 games. He stole 40 bases, too. He hit for the cycle in one game and stole home twice in another. He came back in 1888 with a .326 average -- again, best on his team. One-fourth of his hits in the International League were for extra bases. He led his team and/or league in various offensive categories, including batting average, stolen bases, total bases, and home runs. That season earned him the distinction of being the only black player before the 1940s to play three consecutive years (1886-1888) with the same team, Buffalo.
   The 1887 season was the high-water mark for African-American players in the International League. Buffalo had its nonpareil second baseman, Frank Grant. There were several other African-American players in the league, but the two who stood out, in addition to Grant, were pitchers George Stovey of Newark (34-15) and Robert Higgins of Syracuse (19-8), both lefthanders.  The  season had been marked by frequent evidences of antagonism (by players) against the Negro players in the league. Anti-Black sentiment increased in 1888 and there was a strong movement to bar all Negro players. Buffalo took a counter stance by lobbying the IL not to put into place a color line. Because of their respect for Grant the individual and Grant the ballplayer, the Bisons were able to keep his services one extra year before the ban on black players took hold.  Few teams would have gone to such lengths, but Grant was obviously special. 

   The Buffalo correspondent for Sporting Life said that Grant was the best player ever to play in that city, putting him above such luminaries as Jim Galvin, Dan Brouthers, Jim O'Rourke, and Old Hoss Radbourn.  As a fielder, Grant was no less remarkable. His range was so exceptional -- and his arm so strong -- that some derided his defensive play as a "circus act." Grant would segue to the Negro League, where he would star for 15 years, one of a few who helped make the league credible and viable. He went on to play for such strong independent Negro teams as the Cuban X Giants, Big Gorhams, and Philadelphia Giants through 1903. He died at age 71 in New York City and was buried in Clifton, N.J. His grave, for some reason, remained unmarked all these years until this past June.(2011) In 2006, Grant was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a man of great class, resiliency, intelligence and a world of baseball talent.
Detailed Biography of Grant at Society for American Baseball Research

In Other News....
Buffalo Evening News - Wednesday 
September 5th 1900

Bisons Are Now Beyond the Possibility
of Finishing in Last Place
  It really would take a lot of nerve to assert the Pan-Ams really won the first game, though it goes to their credit as a victory.  The Minnies really won it in the second inning when they hammered out five runs.  The Charlie Hastings hoodoo was hanging over their heads however, for with the score 5-2 in their favor, the visitors took one of the most spectacular ascensions ever seen on the grounds, and aided by four singles, the Pan-Ams chased 8 large runs across the rubber.  Nichols at short and Lolly in the left garden were the worst actors during this period.  Nichols rolled up three astonishing mis-plays, and Lally muffed an easy fly  so squarely, that the ball must have changed it's shape.
   After that it was all  over but the shouting, and the Bisons sailed safely to victory by a score of 10 - 5.  The Minnies played better ball in the second game.... but the Bisons had their confidence with them and they bandied with Mr. Bandelion's curves quite remorselessly.   The batting won the game easily 8-2, and then the Minnies caught the first train out of town. Milwaukee plays this afternoon at 4 o'clock.  Tomorrow will see the last game of the season in Buffalo.


American League
STANDING OF THE CLUBS                               SCHEDULED FOR TODAY
Chicago.......................    72       46     .610                  Chicago at Indianapolis
Milwaukee..................    69       54    .561                   Milwaukee at Buffalo
Indianapolis.................   66       54    .550                   Minneapolis at Cleveland
Detroit.........................    63       61    .508                   Kansas City at Detroit
Kansas City.................    60       62    .492
Cleveland....................    57       62    .479
Buffalo........................    55       69    .444
Minneapolis................    47       77    .379

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