African American players were not welcome in professional baseball prior to the beginning of the 20th Century due to racial prejudice and discrimination. However, the “invisible color line” that would keep them out of Major League baseball for nearly half the new century was not completely drawn prior to 1890. Despite the adverse racial attitudes against them, there were eight known African-American players on white teams at the highest levels of organized professional baseball during the 1880’s; John W. “Bud” Fowler, Moses Fleetwood Walker, Weldy Walker, Robert Higgins, Richard Johnson, George Stovey, Sol White, and Ulysses F. (Frank) Grant.
Born on August 1, 1865 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Frank Grant was not only the best of those eight but also one of the best baseball players of that era. At 5’7” and 155 pounds, he was more than just a singles hitter with speed. He stroked doubles, triples, and even home runs during baseball’s “dead ball” era when the center core of the ball was soft and did not carry far when hit. An acrobatic fielder with a strong throwing, Grant played mostly second base but when needed also handled third base and shortstop.
After the “invisible color line” became solidly entrenched, Grant played for the Cuban Giants which many baseball historians believe was the first African American professional baseball team. He also played with the Philadelphia Giants one of the best black teams of the early 20th Century.
Frank Grant was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.