One Nation under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime

By John Florio; Ouisie Shapiro | Go to book overview

1

I’m calling on behalf of Senator Kennedy.

That’s what the guy had said, and if Mudcat Grant were white, he may have trusted him. But for black ballplayers like Grant, prank calls were commonplace—and in some cases dangerous. They came at all hours, in all forms, and were often accompanied by death threats. This one had come by way of a ringing telephone in Grant’s room at the Sheraton Cadillac in Detroit, the majestic hotel in which the twentyfive-year-old pitcher was staying with the rest of the Cleveland Indians.

The caller was still talking. “Mr. Kennedy would like to have breakfast with you.”

“I’m sorry,” Grant said and quickly hung up.

The phone rang again. And again. And again.

Grant ignored it each time, and went back to reading the morning paper. It was Labor Day 1960 and barely eight o’clock. He was scheduled to pitch the first game of a doubleheader against Detroit in a few hours. The game was meaningless—the Tigers and the Indians were both out of contention—but it mattered to Grant. One more win and he’d match his career high of ten, which he’d posted each of the previous two seasons.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Grant got up off the bed and looked through the peephole. Standing in the hallway were two white men wearing identical suits and deadpan expressions— and flashing ID cards. They looked official enough, so Grant let them in.

“Mr. Kennedy is a big fan of yours,” they said, explaining that they worked for the Massachusetts senator. “He’d like you to join him for breakfast in the hotel.”

Hard as it was to believe, the phone calls had been legit. Grant got dressed and, within minutes, was sitting in the hotel dining room sharing eggs and coffee with the man who’d won the Democratic nomination for president six weeks earlier. John F. Kennedy told Grant how

-1-

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One Nation under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword Bob Costas vii
  • A Note to the Reader ix
  • 1 1
  • 2 8
  • 3 23
  • 4 31
  • 5 43
  • 6 51
  • 7 58
  • 8 65
  • 9 72
  • 10 86
  • 11 100
  • 12 111
  • 13 126
  • 14 129
  • 15 138
  • 16 150
  • 17 156
  • 18 164
  • 19 173
  • 20 180
  • 21 192
  • Epilogue- 1975 201
  • Acknowledgments 203
  • Bibliography 205
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