'Black Aces' honored by Athletics
Three of 13 African-American 20-game winners did it in Oakland
OAKLAND -- Thirteen African-American pitchers have been 20-game winners in the Major Leagues, and three of them did so with the Oakland A's.
Vida Blue, Mike Norris and Dave Stewart won at least 20 games during their tenure in Oakland, and prior to the A's afternoon game with the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, they teamed up with the American League's original "Black Ace" in Jim "Mudcat" Grant. The four of them were honored at McAfee Coliseum prior to the contest.
The Negro League Baseball Museum's traveling exhibit will be on display at the Coliseum until Monday.
Grant went 21-7 with the Minnesota Twins in 1965 as he helped lead that team to the World Series. He wound up pitching with the A's in parts of 1970 and '71.
"I remember watching Mudcat," Norris said. "I was 10 years old and it was very impressive to me."
The pregame ceremony included a video tribute to each player, and each was presented an engraved crystal baseball.
In addition, Grant also sung the national anthem before the game, receiving a rousing ovation.
Grant, who authored the book, "The Black Aces: Baseball's Only African-American 20-game Winners," talked to fans about the traveling exhibit, which is located behind sections 219 and 220.
Grant and Norris voiced concern at the lack of African-American players in the Major Leagues, and they hope that something can be done.
"We have to place ourselves in a position to do something," Grant said. "We need an African-American Little League World Series. I'm looking for some black kids to play some baseball, because we're losing."
"The decrease in the black player to 9 percent is alarming to me," Norris said.
Norris, who spent his entire 10-year career in Oakland, went 22-9 in 1980.
Blue joined the Black Aces club in 1971, putting up one of the best years for any pitcher to that point.
He went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA, as he won both the Cy Young Award and the American League's Most Valuable Player Award.
"To be at the top of the game is something I wish every athlete could experience," Blue said.
Blue won 20 games twice more, going 20-9 in 1973 and 22-11 in 1975.
Stewart set a precedent for Oakland pitchers, when he won 20 games four years in a row, from 1987-90.
He went 20-13 in '87, 21-12 in '88, 21-9 in '89 and 22-11 in '90. He was the World Series MVP in '89, when the A's beat the Giants in four games.
The other nine members of the Black Aces are Bob Gibson, Al Downing, Dwight Gooden, Ferguson Jenkins, Sam Jones, Don Newcombe, J.R. Richard, Earl Wilson and, most recently, Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins, who joined in 2005.
"Our last ace is Dontrelle, so we have a hip-hopper," Grant said laughingly. "He is such a good kid."
Willis was born in Oakland and attended high school at Encinal in Alameda.
Matt Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.