Grant in 1887
|Born: August 1, 1865|
|Died: May 27, 1937 (aged 71)|
New York, New York
|Negro Leagues debut|
|1889, for the Cuban Giants|
|1903, for the Philadelphia Giants|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
Ulysses Franklin "Frank" Grant (August 1, 1865 – May 27, 1937) was an African-American baseball player in the 19th century. Early in his career, he was a star player in the International League, shortly before Jim Crow restrictions were imposed that banned African-American players from organized baseball.
Grant then became a pioneer in the early Negro leagues, starring for several of the top African-American teams of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is widely considered to have been the greatest African-American player of the 19th century. In 2006, Grant was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1886, Grant played for an Eastern League team based in Meriden, Connecticut. He signed with the Buffalo Bisons in the International League, one level below the major leagues, later that season. Though most sources indicate the official integration of organized baseball would not come for several more decades, Grant was one of five black players who played in baseball's otherwise white minor leagues at the time. When he debuted with the team, a Buffalo newspaper reporter referred to Grant as "a Spaniard". He hit .344 with Buffalo that season.
In 1887, the 22-year-old batted .353, paced the IL with 11 home runs and 49 extra-base hits and led Buffalo with 40 stolen bases. In 1887, John Chapman, the Bisons' veteran manager, valued Grant's services at $5,000—quite a compliment when Chicago had recently sold superstar King Kelly to Boston for $10,000. During the 1887 season, Grant hit for the cycle in one game and stole home twice in another. Despite significant racial turmoil that year, Buffalo forced the IL to rescind a proposed color line to keep Grant in town.
By 1888, anti-black sentiment was all around the league, and it seemed only Buffalo argued against segregation (possibly because of Grant). When blacks were banned from organized, white-controlled baseball in 1889, Grant went on to become a successful Negro leaguer for the Cuban Giants, Cuban X-Giants, Big Gorhams and Philadelphia Giants into the 20th century. His career ended in 1903.
Author Jerry Malloy described Grant as "the greatest Negro baseball player of the 19th century." In the late 19th century, few black hitters matched up with Grant. He had substantial power at the plate, often hitting home runs and very often getting extra-base hits. Grant hit for extra bases every four times he got a hit. He achieved this even though he was quite small (5'7", 155 pounds).
A middle infielder, mostly a second baseman, Grant had fielding skills widely praised as the best in the league. He was known as "The Black Dunlap", a comparison drawn to the defensive skills of 19th-century white second baseman Fred Dunlap. Grant is also notable for becoming the first black player to play on the same team in organized baseball for three consecutive seasons.
Later life and legacy
After his baseball career, Grant's name rarely appeared in the press. He lived a quiet life as a waiter for a catering company. Grant died at age 71 in New York City. His grave in East Ridgelawn Cemetery, Clifton, New Jersey, was unmarked until June 2011.
- "Genuine Cuban Giants", The Evening Times, Washington, DC, 23 May 1896, p. 3
- "Giants Were Twice Defeated", The Patriot, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, September 11, 1903, p. 7
- "Frank Grant". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
- Pennington, Bill (July 27, 2006). "Breaking a Barrier 60 Years Before Robinson". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-10.
- Klein, Jeff Z. "Heritage Moments: Frank Grant, the Buffalo Bisons and the drawing of baseball's color line". news.wbfo.org. April 23, 2018. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
- Overfield, Joseph; Adomites, Paul; Puff, Richard; Davids, L. Robert (2013). Nineteenth Century Stars: 2012 Edition. Society for American Baseball Research. pp. 110–111. ISBN 1933599294. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- Riley, James A. (1994). "Grant, Ulysses F. (Frank)". The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. Carroll & Graf. pp. 331–32. ISBN 0-7867-0959-6.
- Yellin, Deena (June 15, 2011). "Gravesite of Negro Leagues pioneer finally gets marker". The Record. Retrieved 2011-07-26.
- Frank Grant at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- 2006 Hall of Fame Inductee Bio: Frank Grant (video) – unknown content, URL confirmed 2010-04-16
- Find a Grave bio