Guest Editorial: Larry Doby Once Always Second Is Finally On First
By Gary Laing
(WASHINGTON - July 1, 2012) - On July 5, 2012, Major League Baseball may not have players in both leagues displaying the number 14 on their uniforms, teams are not likely to have the number displayed on outfield walls, nor are most sportscasters apt to spend much time discussing the significance of what happened on that date 65 years ago.
Baseball reminds us often that on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color line in major league baseball with the National League’s Brooklyn Dodgers. For the next eleven weeks, he remained the only man of his race on any major league team.
That changed July 5, 1947 when Larry Doby joined the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first black player in the American League, and the second in all of major league baseball. He was 22 years old, and the first to make the direct move from the Negro Leagues to the majors. While Robinson spent time in the minors in Montreal, Doby’s move was from the Newark Eagles to the Indians, who acquired his contract for $10,000.
All too many people do not know of Larry Doby or recognize his accomplishments, as he is overshadowed by Robinson’s pioneering efforts. However, to ignore his impact fails to recognize that Doby had to suffer the same racial slurs coming from the stands and opposing dugouts. As an outfielder, he didn’t face the flying spikes at second base that threatened Robinson, but the same chin music, knockdowns, and brushback pitches threatened his health in an era before batting helmets.
Like Robinson, Doby learned to deal with the indignities heaped upon black baseball players in the segregated 1940s and 50s. Most of the time, like Robinson, Larry Doby let his performance deal with claims that African-Americans weren’t as good as white players. Players like Robinson, Doby, and others to come – such as Don Newcombe, Willie Mays, and Monte Irvin, who made it to the majors with the St. Louis Browns twelve days after Doby – made a lie out of those claims by establishing that their style of baseball, honed and perfected in the Negro Leagues, was often superior.
Ironically for Larry Doby, another of his accomplishments was overshadowed. In 1978, the Chicago White Sox named him manager of the team, but again he was second; Frank Robinson had become the first black manager in 1975.
Doby did get to celebrate some firsts. He was the first black player to hit a World Series home run (Game 4, 1948). He was a 7-time All-Star (1949-1955), his number 14 was retired by the Indians, and the Veterans Committee named him to the Hall of Fame in 1998. He finished his playing career as the third American to play in Japan’s Nippon Professional League.
Later this month, the U.S. Postal Service will issue stamps honoring great players of the past. Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Willie Stargell, and Doby have been chosen for the honor, and all stamps will be issued on the same day.
This time, Larry Doby will not be second.
What do you think?
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Another Great Story in the Life and Struggle for existance, of the African American MAN. Dolby also played catcher which is thought of as a thinking position along with the pitcher in all of baseball. Unfortunately its been 65 years since he joined Major League Baseball. I bet you can count the number of African American Catchers that have made it to the MLB since on one hand. You could probably can still count the number that are presently playing catcher on one hand also. The catcher is the closet thing to a coach on the field.