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Larry Doby

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Larry Doby

A photo of Larry Doby.

Lawrence Eugene "Larry" Doby (December 13, 1923June 18, 2003) was an American professional baseball player in the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball.

A native of Camden, South Carolina, he was the second black player to play in the modern major leagues and the first to do so in the American League. A center fielder, Doby appeared in seven All-Star games and finished second in the 1954 American League MVP voting. Appointed manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1978, Doby was the second African-American to lead a Major League club. He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Hall's Veterans Committee. He is one of five Hall-of-Famers to have grown up in Paterson, New Jersey, though he was born elsewhere.

A local star athlete from Paterson, New Jersey, Doby joined the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues at the age of 17, in 1942, starring as a second baseman. Doby tried out for the Newark Eagles at historic Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey. A Negro League umpire by the name of Henry Moore advised Eagles owner Abe Manley to give Doby a try out. Doby worked out with the Eagles prior to a game between the Newark eagles and the New York Black Yankees (Hinchliffe Stadium was the Black Yankees home ballpark). At his Hall of Fame induction press conference in 1998, Doby said his most memorable moment at Hinchliffe Stadium was trying out for the Eagles, this after having a stellar career as a football and baseball player at Eastside High School. 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 then rejoined the Eagles in 1946. Along with his partner, fellow Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, Doby led the team to the Negro League Championship.

Doby was signed by the Cleveland Indians by their owner Bill Veeck in 1947, eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League. In his rookie season, Doby hit 5-for-32 in 29 games.

During the 1997 season, when the long-departed Jackie Robinson's number 42 was being retired throughout baseball, and the still-living Larry Doby was being virtually ignored by the media, an editorial in Sports Illustrated pointed out that Doby had to suffer the same indignities that Robinson did, and with nowhere near the media attention and implicit support.

More pointedly, in The Great American Baseball Card Book, the writers included a picture of Doby's baseball card and said that being the second black ballplayer was, in the minds of the press, akin to being "the second man to invent the telephone."

In 1948, Doby became an important piece of Cleveland's World Series victory against the Boston Braves. In Game Four of the 1948 Fall Classic, Doby became the first black player to hit a home run in World Series history. He also helped the Indians to win 111 games and the American League pennant in 1954.

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, finishing his majors' career in 1959 with the White Sox (again hired by Bill Veeck) after a brief stint with the Detroit Tigers.

Doby was a .283 career hitter with 253 home runs and 970 RBI in 1,533 games. He hit at least 20 homers in each season from 1949-56, leading the league in 1952 (32) and 1954 (32), and appearing between the top ten leaders in seven seasons (1949, 1951-56). He hit for the cycle (1952), and also led the league in runs in 1952 (104), RBI in 1954 (126), on base percentage in 1950 (.442), slugging average in 1952 (.541), and OPS in 1950 (.986).

In 1962, Doby became the third American to play professional baseball in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league, after Wally Kaname Yonamine and Don Newcombe. After retiring, he was a coach for the Montreal Expos and the Indians, and became manager of the White Sox in the middle of the 1978 season. In a coincidental parallel, Doby was also the second black manager in the major leagues, after Frank Robinson had become the manager of Cleveland in 1975. Once again, it was Veeck who hired Doby.

Doby threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the 1997 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played at Jacobs Field. It was an appropriate choice, as the 1997 baseball season marked the fiftieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. It was also 50 years and 3 days since Doby became the first black player in the American League.

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."

Statement of President George W. Bush, June 20, 2003

[1]

On August 10, 2007, the Indians paid tribute to Doby on Larry Doby Day by collectively using his number (14) on their uniforms.

There is a question about his birth date, since the 1930 census states his age as 10. This would mean that his actual birth year would be 1919 instead of 1923. However, since census records have been known to be incorrect, this bit of data can not be said to be conclusive at this time.

NotesEdit

  1. Statement on Larry Doby

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