Teams Include: Meriden, Connecticut; Buffalo, New York; Trenton, New Jersey; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Ansonia, Connecticut; Philadelphia Giants 1886-1903
The quote that tells you all you need to know about Frank Grant comes from Robert W. Peterson, premier Negro baseball historian: "Probably the best of the black players in organized baseball during the nineteenth century before the color line was drawn." Sol White, author of Sol White's Official Base Ball Guide, wrote of Grant: "In hitting he ranked with the best, and his fielding bordered on the impossible."
Frank Grant played a spectacular
second base, but after dealing with
vicious slides from racist baserunners,
he was moved to the outfield
for his own protection.
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 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, where he took the International Association by storm. During his first season there, he led his team with a .340 batting average. The next year he batted .366, but more amazing were his power numbers.
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. That season earned him the distinction of being the only black player in the 19th century to play three consecutive years with the same white team.
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." He was given the moniker "the Colored Dunlap," in salute to Fred Dunlap, the best white second baseman of the 1880s. Like Jackie Robinson, Grant faced the wrath of racist baserunners, who slid in hard with spikes high. It reached a point where Grant had to wear a shin guard as a shield of armor.
After a year with the Cuban Giants, Grant returned to the white minor leagues with Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Residents of that city couldn't wait to get a glimpse of the famous star. Reported The Harrisburg Patriot, "Everyone was anxious to see him come, and there was a general stretch of necks toward the new bridge, all being eager to get a sight of the most famous colored ball player in the business."
When the team jumped from the Eastern League to the Atlantic Association, it did so only on the condition that Grant could join them. But by then, professional baseball had drawn the color line. Grant moved back to the all-black Cuban Giants of the 1890s before finishing his career in 1902 and 1903 with the Philadelphia Giants. Grant was elected to the Hall by the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 2006.
Grant's statistics are unavailable.
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