By Jerry Crasnick
It was a telling gesture -- as Curtis Granderson prepared for his 16th major-league season last March -- that he found time in his schedule to play camp counselor and Grapefruit League social director. Shortly after the Marlins arrived in Jupiter, Fla., Granderson reached out to players with the neighboring Cardinals, Astros and Nationals to arrange a group dinner where veterans could share stories and young players could be welcomed to the brotherhood.
Former big leaguer Aaron Rowand liked to bond with his teammates over strikes and spares during clubhouse bowling tournaments in spring training. The Grandy Man, in contrast, is partial to talking baseball, his fondness for the WWE or his allegiance to the Kansas Jayhawks’ basketball program over a good meal.
As Granderson retires today with three All-Star appearances and 1,800 hits in his portfolio, fans will remember him as a throwback-y professional who wore his socks high in tribute to the old Negro Leaguers and ran out each of his 344 career home runs. Media members who covered him during his seven MLB stops came to appreciate him as a player who was always at his locker post-game and accountable through the successes and inevitable 0-fers.
Granderson’s passion for helping kids manifested itself in any number of initiatives. He wrote two children’s books, and was a one-man philanthropy machine whose personal charity, the Grand Kids Foundation, touched the lives of thousands of children in a positive way.
Among his peers -- from those on the receiving end of those 344 homers to the former teammates who high-fived him in the dugout -- Granderson will be remembered as a leader, a grinder, a guardian of the game’s history and an example of everything that’s right with the game.
Granderson gravitated to player leadership early in his career, and ascended to a variety of roles with the MLBPA after attending his first Executive Board meeting in 2006. Through the years, he emerged as a passionate and thoughtful voice on everything from labor negotiations to scheduling to health and safety issues.
The honors inevitably accrued. Granderson received the Roberto Clemente Award in 2016 and four Marvin Miller Man of the Year Awards from his peers in recognition of his contributions to the Players Association. In a 2019 tribute video, Josh Donaldson declared him “the nicest man in baseball,’’ and Mets first baseman Peter Alonso recalled how Granderson welcomed him to the majors during his first camp. “I don’t think anybody likes Grandy,’’ Alonso said. “I think everyone loves Grandy.’’
“Curtis has personified everything a Major Leaguer can be and more, both on and off the field, over a career of more than 15 years. His skills on the field were surpassed only by his sense of leadership and devotion to his family, friends and fellow Players, whom he served with dignity and grace. He has earned the respect of everyone he’s played alongside or against as well as those whose lives he touched in the community through his generosity and compassion.”
-- TONY CLARK, Executive Director
Domestically and abroad, Granderson had a rare capacity to connect people, grow the game and be an ambassador both home and abroad. He represented MLB at a White House function in 2010, donated $5 million to build a new stadium for his college program at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and traveled to England, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, China, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan to spread the gospel of baseball.
It was quite a journey. As a young player in Detroit, Granderson deferred to his elders, absorbed their wisdom and took pride in his adherence to hard work and high standards. Those values carried him through his 2,057th and final game, when he was still imparting baseball and life lessons to teammates with accessibility and a smile.
As Granderson enters a new phase of his life, former teammates and opponents will remember him for his professionalism, his inclusiveness, those high socks and so much more. It’s a legacy of respect that can only be earned over time. And it will follow him into his next chapter, wherever it leads.