By Bruce Markusen
Spring Training Edition
March 11, 2004
Rapping With Mudcat And Scoop
On February 14, former major league standouts Jim “Mudcat” Grant and Al Oliver visited the Hall of Fame to participate in a Legends Series event celebrating Black History Month. In one of the most enjoyable assignments Iíve received at the Hall, I had the pleasure of interviewing these two well-spoken former stars. One of a dozen African-American pitchers to win 20 games in a major league season, Grant won two games and hit a key home run for the Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series. Oliver, a lifetime .303 hitter and the 1982 winner of the National Leagueís batting crown, helped the Pittsburgh Pirates to the World Championship in 1971. Grant was also a member of that 1971 Pirates team, but was traded in mid-season to the Oakland Aís, thus denying him the opportunity to play in that fallís World Series.
The educational program with Grant and Oliver, which featured a number of youngsters in the audience, highlighted the Hall of Fameís celebration of Black History Month. Grant and Oliver talked at length about the racism that they battled in becoming big league stars, while also expressing hope that baseball will eventually overcome its current struggles in recruiting young African-American players and fans. The following is a partial transcript of that interview, which occurred in front of a capacity crowd in the Hall of Fame Libraryís Bullpen Theater.
Markusen: Why is baseball struggling in drawing more young African Americans to play the game?
Oliver: The bottom line is, I really donít think that they have had the proper Afro Americans to market the game of baseball. Basketball has Michael Jordan. Football has so many guys, like Walter Payton. Baseball, for whatever reason, did not have that proper player. It seems like they were lacking something