Williamstown Honors Baseball Hall Of Fame Inductee Frank GrantBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, August 10, 2006
Williamstown - Marion Grant Royston stood on a Spring Street veranda and gazed out at about 40 spectators gathered to pay homage to her great-uncle, 2006 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ulysses Franklin "Frank" Grant.
|Plaque honoring former Williamstown resident and National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Frank Grant.|
"[The Hall of Fame ceremony] was something to have witnessed and shared," Royston said.
Grant was born in Pittsfield on Aug. 1 1865 and he and his family moved to Williamstown in 1871. Grant forged a 20-year career in baseball and became known as one of the greatest black baseball players - many believe he was the greatest black player- of the 19th century. He was inducted into the Cooperstown, N.Y. Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Grant and his family lived on Spring Street, and although it is not certain precisely where on the street the family lived, a plaque honoring Grant has been installed at 84 Spring St.. The building hosting the plaque is owned by Williams College.
Frank Grant's grand-niece Marion Grant Royston attended the event.
The Hall of Fame inclusion honors Grant's career accomplishments and the town plaque acknowledges his youth, said Royston.
"I'm sure that he played [baseball] somewhere in these fields," she said. "This completes the circle."
Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent attended the event. Vincent is a part-time resident of town and a member of the Williams College Class of 1960.
"This is a great day for those of us who think black baseball players, especially in the 19th century, got the short stick," Vincent said. Vincent also noted that acknowledging Grant's boyhood community has special meaning because Grant is buried in an unmarked grave.
Black baseball players faced segregation beginning during the mid- to late 1800s. Segreation continued until 1947, when Jackie Robinson played for the National League's Brooklyn Dodgers. Also that year, Larry Doby joined the Cleveland Indians and became the first black American League player.
Grant was able to play in integrated leagues for six years before segregation. He played all baseball positions and his agility and speed earned him notoriety as a second baseman. His 5' 7 1/2'' height did nothing to limit his hitting abilities; Grant batted over .300 every year in the minors, including three seasons with Buffalo of the International League. Grant played for the Cuban Giants, an all-black team, during the 1890s and ended his baseball career in 1903.
National Baseball Hall of Fame Chairwoman Jane Clark, the granddaughter of National Hall of Fame and Museum, Fenimore Museum and Farmer's Museum founder Stephen Clark, National Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey and Dale Overmyer, a baseball historian who was instrumental in bringing Grant's story to the public, participated during the ceremony. Town Selectmen's Chairman John "Jack" Madden and Town Manager Peter Fohlin attended the event as well.
Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent spoke at the ceremony.
The ceremony followed a morning "Clark Cup Challenge" five-inning softball game between the "Sterlings" [Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute founded by Stephen Clark's brother Sterling Clark], and the "Stephens," a team whose players included staff members of the museums founded by Stephen Clark.
The game was played at the Mount Greylcok Regional High School.
The "Stephens" claimed a 17-6 victory and the large "Clark Cup," which will be kept at the National baseball Hall of Fame and Museum until, or if, the "Sterlings" can win the cup and bring it home to the Clark Art Institute.
Stephen Clark's granddaughter Jane Clark and the famed "Clark Cup," won by the "Stephens" softball team.
The "Sterlings" have been invited to compete against the "Stephens" in Cooperstown.
Petroskey said the game was "well-played' by both teams.
"We've had a great time," he said. "This is a beautiful town and we have to come back."
The "Stephens" had a bit of an advantage, said Michael Conforti, director of the art institute. Each team could draw players from entities founded by Sterling Clark or Stephen Clark; Sterling Clark did not launch anything particularly athletic, he noted.
"If Sterling had founded something with sports....," he said.
The softball game was "great fun" and brought those associated with the Clark brothers "together as family," Conforti said.
National Baseball Hall of Fame Chairwoman Jane Clark and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Director Michael Conforti both said they enjoyed the softball game and the ceremony honoring Grant.
The softball event was part of a series of events commemorating the Clark's summer exhibition "The Clark Brothers Collect:Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings". The exhibit includes art collected by
Sterling Clark and Stephen Clark and also examines the rivalry between the brothers. Heirs to the Singer Sewing fortune, the brothers often consulted each other during their early years of art collecting but by the 1920s, the brothers quarreled over the family estate and never spoke to each other again throughout their lives.
For additional information about the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute or the current exhibit, call 413-458-2303 or visit a www.clarkart.edu Internet web site.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at 802-823-9367.