February 3, 2012

My favorite 1959 Cleveland Indians: Minnie Minoso, Mudcat Grant and Vic Power


The 1959 season was the first year of my baseball fandom. Living in the country about a hundred miles west of Cleveland, I listened to a great many games on radio, watched several on television and attended one, which was a very, very big deal for me.

The Indians finished second to the White Sox and contended almost to the end, a very exciting season. My favorite players were Orestes “Minnie” Minoso from Cuba, Jim “Mudcat” Grant from miniscule Lacoochee, Florida, and Vic Power from Puerto Rico. Most kids I knew liked these guys a lot. They also happened to be the only three black players on the Indians that year, thirteen years after Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers.

Minnie was a good outfielder and hitter. He swung so hard he nearly screwed himself into the ground. At the game I attended he threw ball after ball to the kids in the bleachers during batting practice. He began his career in the Negro Leagues. Soon he came to the majors. He was never a star in the Negro Leagues but his time there caused his big league totals to fall short of Hall of Fame quantity. That its door remains shut to him is an injustice.

Mudcat was in his second big league year as a pitcher. He started and relieved, though his best year was 1965 when he won 21 games for the pennant-winning Minnesota Twins, after the Indians, as was their wont, traded him for almost nothing. He was a nightclub singer in the offseason. Years later he formed the Black Aces. Admission is limited to African-American pitchers who have won 20 or more games in a season. Members often appear together to aid various fund-raising efforts.

Vic Power excelled for the Yankees’ minor league teams, but was traded before he could become the first black Yankee. As a Puerto Rican he was unfamiliar with the rules of Jim Crow and also was simply too flashy for such a conservative organization. He played mostly first base, though he played everywhere except pitcher and catcher before he was through. He played baseball like Carlos Santana plays guitar, a virtuoso’s technique flavored with controlled ecstasy.

Those that break down doors, like Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks, have considerable support. Jackie’s general manager was Branch Rickey. Rosa Parks’ lawyer was Thurgood Marshall. Those that soon follow suffer almost as much without nearly the support. Minnie, Mudcat and Vic will never get their own stamp or holiday, but they, too, were heroic, especially to the kids around Cleveland, black and white.


Darrell Berger has written "Then Roy said to Mickey" with former Yankees outfielder Roy White and "Straight Talk from Wild Thing" with former Phillies pitcher and MLB commentator Mitch Williams, both published by Triumph Books.

He is a native of
Toledo, Ohio and a graduate of Vanderbilt University. Darrell is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Orange, NJ and a tour guide at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, NJ. He has been a featured speaker at the New York City Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), speaking on "Baseball Players as Human Beings."

He was book reviewer with "Baseball Hobby News" for more than 10 years, where he also contributed a monthly column, "The Diamond Mind." He is a Detroit Tigers fan. His three favorite baseball personalities are Ernie Harwell, Bill Veeck and Casey Stengel.

He may be reached at

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