Willie Grace

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William Grace
(Willie, Fireman)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Willie Grace was an outfielder in the Negro Leagues for 9 years then spent one season in the minor leagues. He debuted with the 1942 Cincinnati Buckeyes, being signed off of the sandlots of Laurel, MS, after two Buckeyes had died in an auto accident. The team became the Cleveland Buckeyes in 1943 and Grace became a starter the next year, hitting .237. While Grace was back as a sub in 1945, he got back into the lineup when Ducky Davenport went to the Mexican League late in the year. Cleveland won the Negro National League pennant and Willie hit .313 in the 1945 Negro World Series, including a rare home run, socked in Game 2. It was the lone homer of a Series featuring such power threats as Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Jud Wilson.

Grace improved to .305 in 1946 and made the East-West Games. In the first 1946 East-West Game, he batted fifth for the West and played all game in right, going 1 for 4 with an RBI in a 6-3 defeat. In the second East-West outing, Willie hit fifth and played right again. He went 3 for 4 with a run as the West's offensive leader in a 4-1 victory. He did not do as well on the bases, being thrown out twice in three steal attempts. Some sources say he was named the Buckeyes' MVP in 1946.

Willie hit .301 in 1947 and batted .263 in the 1947 Negro World Series, which Cleveland lost to the New York Cubans. The next year, he chipped in a .322 mark, the best of an outfield that included future big-leaguers Sam Jethroe and Al Smith; Grace lacked their speed and power, though.

Grace fell off drastically in 1949 for the Louisville Buckeyes, posting a .221 mark. Back in Cleveland and with the Houston Eagles, Willie hit .273. He finished his professional baseball career with one year of integrated baseball. At age 31/32, Grace hit .293 with two homers and 53 RBI for the 1951 Erie Sailors.

After retirement, he remained in Erie. He was a founder and member of the Elks Lodge # 328 and worked at Hammermill Paper, retiring in 1980. He was the next-to-last of six siblings to pass away (Ruby Lucille, Fred Grace, Minnie Pearl, Walter Grace) and was survived by ex-wife Shirley Grace, sister Mallie Emanuel, sons Darryl Grace and Greg Grace and grandchildren Darryl Grace Jr., Sydney Grace, Monica Hardy and Stephen Constant.

He died in Presque Isle Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

Notable Achievements[edit]


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