By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
Frank Grant – Signed by the Bisons in 1886
If you can picture Joe Morgan playing baseball in the 1970s, then you have an idea about what Frank Grant was like in the 1880s. They were both small men with great skills and surprising power, and both wound up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The difference was that only one was allowed to fulfill his potential.
Grant grew up in Pittsfield, Mass., and played semi-pro ball in that area. He turned professional in 1886 by joining a team in Meridan, Conn. – quickly becoming their best player. But the team had financial problems and disbanded on July 13. It took a day for the Bisons to sign him and put him in the lineup at its new Olympic Park at Richmond and Summer. Grant hit .344 in 49 games.
Grant was back with the Herd in 1887, even though some of his teammates refused to be part of a spring training team photo that included a black man. He went on to hit a league-leading 11 homers with 40 steals and a .353 batting average, and was considered the most popular team with the public on the roster. Grant came back for the 1888 season, but the so-called “color line” against African Americans was in the process of being drawn. Thus, Grant became the last black to play for the same team in organized ball for three straight years until the line was dropped after World War II.
He went on to play in various leagues for about 15 more years. Grant was inducted in Cooperstown in 2006. His baseball career started before any other enshrined African American.
Here’s a bio from the Hall of Fame:
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)
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