Jeff Kolpack, Published June 27 2010
Mudcat Grant returns to the city he loves thanks to Roger Maris golf tournamentJim “Mudcat” Grant has returned to Fargo for the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament a handful of times. And each trip provides the legendary pitcher a trip down memory lane.
It’s where he got his start. Like Maris, Grant got his indoctrination in professional baseball with the Fargo-Moorhead Twins of the Northern League. Fargo may be several times bigger now, but some things remain small.
“It’s a chance to see the old places I used to stay at,” Grant said.
And places he used to play at, too. An accomplished musician and singer – he may sing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” at the Maris banquet at the Holiday Inn tonight – he was a regular at the old “Flame Show Bar” in Fargo.
“That’s where the music was in those days,” Grant said. “The music here was more like country and western and not too many places played the blues.”
The memory is so clear, in fact, that he remembers the name of the hit record that played during the entire summer of 1954: “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” by “Little” Jimmy Dickens.
The Fargo tournament of baseball greats of paradise – the Maris – is now in its 27th year. Count former major league pitcher Tommy John as somebody who was touched by Maris, and it came in a not-so-ordinary place.
John was a rookie with the Cleveland Indians in 1964 when he and some teammates were in a sweater shop in New York City. Roger and Pat Maris were also there.
“It was pouring rain, just pouring rain,” John said Saturday, shortly after arriving in Fargo, “so we asked the guy that owned the place if he could call a cab so we could get back to the hotel.”
Roger, he said, would hear nothing of that. So about eight people piled into a Cadillac.
“He went three blocks in the rain and got the car,” John said. “I just thought, here’s a guy who’s done all you could do in baseball and yet he took the time to help a bunch of guys. That was classy.”
The Maris event begins today with the annual auction at 2:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn. The banquet starts at 5:30 with a host of live auction items up for bid.
They include a Darin Erstad autographed Rawlings Gold Glove, tickets to the Vikings-Packers football game, T-shirt signed by the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating team from Vancouver, Bon Jovi autographed guitar, Joe Mauer autographed jersey and a Chad Greenway jersey that he will personalize with his autograph.
The final item: a Roger Maris “photo baseball” autographed by Maris, a rare item donated by the Maris family.
“We saved the best for last,” said Denise Sargent, the chair of the Maris Celebrity Golf committee. “The auction committee just always does a great job.”
The scramble tournament, just a couple of fivesomes from being filled, has tee times at 7:30 this morning, 7:30 Monday morning and 1:30 that afternoon.
Although not able to shoot par golf like he used to, Grant will be around to show his flare.
“He’s tremendous, just so gracious,” Sargent said.
Grant plays about 12 charity tournaments a year including two that he has his own vested interest: one for juvenile diabetes and another to benefit abused children.
“What you have here is something special for the community,” he said. “Roger Maris for this town is an attraction. It raises valuable funds. The camaraderie surrounding the tournament is something you just can’t beat.”
And, he said, you just can’t beat that “61 in 61” logo. He’s a former winner of this tournament and he thought about trying to bring the silver golf bag he won back to Fargo.
“I love to play in charity tournaments,” John said. “I did one in L.A. for 12 years and I know the hard work that goes into it and the things you have to do to raise money in charities. It’s hard.”
Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found