|Born: December 13, 1923
Camden, South Carolina
|Died: June 18 2003 (aged 79)
Montclair, New Jersey
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|July 5, 1947
for the Cleveland Indians
|June 26, 1959
for the Chicago White Sox
|Runs batted in||970|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Election Method||Veteran's Committee|
He was signed by Bill Veeck as the first African-American to play in the American League, joining the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, just 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League. As the second black player to play in the modern major leagues, he also became the second African-American to lead a Major League club when he became manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1978.
Doby was the first black player to hit a homerun in a World Series for Cleveland in 1948 and the first to play on a winning World Series team; the first Black player from the AL to participate in the MLB All-Star game in 1949; the first black to win a league homerun title, leading the AL with 32 homeruns in 1952. In 1954, he also led the league with 126 runs batted in (RBI). That made him the first black to win the RBI title in the American League.
A center fielder, Doby appeared in seven All-Star games and finished second in the 1954 American League Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Award voting. He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Hall's Veterans Committee.
When Doby integrated the American League in the summer of 1947, he faced the same difficult racial hurdles and had to play the same pioneer's role as Jackie Robinson, but Doby did so without the accompanying fanfare accorded Robinson.
Larry Doby was born on December 13, 1924 in Camden, South Carolina to David and Etta Doby. David, a World War I veteran who worked in the horse industry as a groom, played baseball in his spare time and was known as a great hitter. David was away from home most of the time working in the North. Doby's father died when he was about eight years old.
His mother had also moved north to Paterson, New Jersey in search of work. His maternal grandmother raised him with strict discipline, regular church attendance, and reading and writing lessons before his formal education began. When she began having mental problems his mother returned to move Larry into the home of her sister-in-law.
In 1938 Larry graduated from the 8th grade and his mother insisted that he move to Paterson to attend high school, where educational and economic opportunities were relatively greater for African-Americans. Living with a friend of his mother in Paterson he only saw his mother on her one day off a week from domestic service.
He attended Eastside High School where he lettered in just about every sport they offered.
While in high school he began playing with the semi-professional and professional teams in both basketball and baseball. Doby joined the Newark Eagles in the Negro baseball leagues at the age of 17. At that time he played under the name Larry Walker to protect his amateur status.
His career in Newark was interrupted for two years for service in the Navy. He was stationed at Camp Smalls in the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois, named after a fellow South Carolinian, Robert Smalls, a hero of the Civil War. There his physical conditioning earned him an assignment as physical education instructor that included playing time with sports teams representing the camp.
Discharged from the Navy in early 1946, Doby returned to professional baseball. He spent a winter season playing in Puerto Rico and then rejoined the Newark Eagles. There he played with some of the all-time greats: Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige (who would later be his roommate in Cleveland), Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe. He was not the top player in the league, but he was among the elite with a .348 batting average for the 1946 season. He helped lead his team to the Negro World Series title.
The first half of the 1947 season Doby was leading the league with a .458 average, but on July 3, 1947, after weeks of rumors, Doby was told that he had been purchased by Bill Veeck's Cleveland Indians.
Doby joined the Indians eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League. He became the first player to go directly from the Negro Leagues straight to the majors. In his rookie season he received limited playing time and was 5-for-32 in 29 games. Only two weeks later the St. Louis Browns' signed Hank Thompson. On August 19th, Doby and Thompson became the first African-American players to line up against one another when their teams met for a doubleheader.
In his first full year in the majors Doby helped the Cleveland Indians to win only their second World Series and the first in 26 years. Against the Boston Braves in 1948, his home run off Johnny Sain decided a 2-1 victory in Game 4 as the Indians won in six games. It was the last time the Indians won the Series. He batted .301, hit 14 homeruns and drove in 66 runs that year. With Doby and Satchel Paige ( who joined the team late in the season}, the Indians set a major league attendance record of 2.7 million paid customers in 1948.
In a pitchers' era, he led the A.L. twice in home runs, with 32 in both 1952 and 1954. He hit at least 20 home runs in eight consecutive seasons and drove in more than 100 runs five times, including a league-leading 126 in 1954, when the Indians won 111 games before being swept by the New York Giants in the World Series. Doby played in six consecutive All-Star games from 1949-1954. In 1949, he became the only African-American All Star to play for the American League. In that same game, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe played for the National League.
He was also one of the best defensive center fielders in the game at the time, with a 164 game streak of no errors in 1954 and 1955 - a record that stood for 17 years. Also On July 31, 1954, Doby made a catch that snatched a home run away by vaulting himself up the fence with his left hand while making the catch with his right hand, then falling back onto the field while hanging onto the ball. Dizzy Dean, who was broadcasting the game, declared it the greatest catch he had ever seen.
At the end of the 1955 season, Doby was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Chico Carrasquel and Jim Busby. He returned to Cleveland in 1958 for a short period of time before finishing his majors' career in 1959 with the White Sox (after a brief stint with the Detroit Tigers).
Doby related years later how he was advised by Bill Veeck to handle himself, "When Mr. Veeck signed me, he sat me down and told me some of the do's and don'ts…. 'No arguing with umpires, don't even turn around at a bad call at the plate, and no dissertations with opposing players; either of those might start a race riot. No associating with female Caucasians'—not that I was going to. And he said remember to act in a way that you know people are watching you. And this was something that both Jack Robinson and I took seriously. We knew that if we didn't succeed, it might hinder opportunities for the other Afro-Americans."
When player-manager Lou Boudreau took him into the visiting team locker room, some of the players shook his hand, but most did not. For ten years he endured segregated training facilities even during spring training; had to eat in separate restaurants and sleep in a separate hotels; had to suffer every racial epithet imaginable; and once he was spit on when he slid into second base.
Doby did not get the recognition that Jackie Robinson received over the years, yet he never became bitter, preferring to keep a low profile. When he shared his history with students in Northfield, Minnesota, during a Carleton College program founded by former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, Doby stated, "If we all look back, we can see that baseball helped make this a better country for us all, a more comfortable country for us all, especially for those of us who have grands and great-grands. Kids are our future and we hope baseball has given them some idea of what it is to live together and how we can get along, whether you be black or white."
After breaking an ankle while sliding into third base in 1959, Doby retired from baseball as a player. After an interlude of nearly ten years, which included briefly playing ball in Japan in 1962, running a business in Newark, and campaigning for Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 Presidential Campaign, Doby reentered professional baseball as hitting coach for the Montreal Expos in 1969.
Thus began his second career. He proved to be a very effective coach with his ability to communicate with players and adapt instruction to their styles and abilities. His ambition was to be a manager, but no African-American had ever managed a major league team before. Ironically his old team, the Cleveland Indians, hired the first black manager but it wasn't Doby, it was Frank Robinson in 1975.
In 1978, Doby was named manager of the White Sox, taking over for Bob Lemon midway through the year. He held the position for just 87 games, posting a record of 37-50. Once again, it was Veeck who hired Doby. Later in interviews Doby would say, "Funny thing, I followed another Robinson." One of his catchers while coaching in 1978 was his namesake, Cleveland native Larry Doby Johnson.
The late Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti insisted it was wrong that such a pioneer could only find work in the front office of the Nets. Doby was then offered a position with the Major League Baseball Properties in 1979, handling the licensing of former players and advising Gene Budig, the American League president.
Some recognition for Doby finally came with the creation of a National Black Sports Hall of Fame in 1973. He was one of 38 athletes chosen that year by the editors of Black Sports magazine.
In 1994 the Cleveland Indians retired the number 14 he had worn in the ten seasons playing there. That same year he was elected to the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
The year 1997 would prove to be a banner year for Larry Doby. While Jackie Robinson's number was being retired with league-wide celebrations of the Fiftieth year since the color barrier had been broken, Sports Illustrated ran an editorial asking why the still-living Doby was being overlooked. The article apparently struck a chord as all of the following events occurred in 1997:
After all that took place in 1997 it seemed a foregone conclusion that Doby should be elected to the Hall of Fame. The Veteran's Committee did just that in 1998.
In addition Major League Baseball announced in 2002 that it would officially name the RadioShack All-Star Futures Game Most Valuable Player Award in honor of Doby.
In 2002 a ceremony held at Eastside Park in Paterson, N.J. unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Doby near a sandlot field named after him. Speaking after the unveiling he said, "If you don't take good care of this field I'm taking my name off it."
Larry Doby died on June 18, 2003, in Montclair, New Jersey, at age 79. When Doby died, President George W. Bush made the following statement:
"Larry Doby was a good and honorable man, and a tremendous athlete and manager. He had a profound influence on the game of baseball, and he will be missed. As the first African American player in the American League, he helped lead the Cleveland Indians to their last World Series title in 1948, became a nine-time All-Star and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. Laura joins me in sending our condolences to Larry's family during this difficult time."
On August 10, 2007, the Indians paid tribute to Doby on Larry Doby Day by collectively using his number (14) on their uniforms.
"Pride Against Prejudice: The Larry Doby Story," narrated by Louis Gossett Jr., premiered on the Showtime Cable TV network in 2007. Filmed by sports documentary filmmaker Bud Greenspan, who has 50 sports films to his credit, the film profiles Doby's life story as documented by baseball historian Jerry Izenberg and Doby's biographer Joseph Thomas Moore.
A Larry Doby Rookie of the Year Award is presented each year by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to players in both the National and American Leagues.
All links retrieved August 21, 2013.
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