Thursday, July 5, 2007

Remembering Larry Doby

July 5th marks the 60th anniversary of Larry Doby's entrance into the American League. Doby was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1947 by general manager and owner Bill Veeck. Doby had played for the Newark Eagles of the Negro League for five years. The 22-year old Doby was sent straight to Cleveland in his first year of major league baseball.

Doby was only the second black player in the majors, following Jackie Robinson's debut by 11 weeks. Sadly, Doby's pioneering role in integrating professional sports is often overshadowed by Robinson. Doby faced extreme hardship throughout his career, but did not receive the national spotlight Robinson did in New York because he played in the Mid-West.

To this day, Major League Baseball fails to acknowledge Larry Doby the way it acknowledges Jackie Robinson. Not to take a thing away from Robinson, but are one man's accomplishments really so much different from the other? The Cleveland Indians, Doby's team of 10 years, remains the sole professional organization to pay tribute to a great ballplayer and his historic accomplishments.

Larry Doby played centerfield for the Cleveland Indians from 1947-1955, and again in 1958. He was an integral member of Cleveland's 1948 World Championship team, posting a .318 AVG, .375 OBP, and .500 SLG in the six game series. Doby also hit the game winning, walk-off homer in Game 4. Doby posted an OPS+ of at least 126 from 1947-1958, finished 1st or 2nd in OPS from 1950-1952, led the league in HR twice (1952, 1954), SLG (1952), RBI (1954), and Runs (1952). He was a 7-time All Star and finished in the top 25 in MVP voting three times, despite facing heavy opposition because of his skin color. After back injuries shortened his career, Doby turned to coaching and became the second black manager in baseball (after Cleveland's Frank Robinson) with the 1978 White Sox.

Larry Doby was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, five years before his death. Doby's number 14 was retired by Cleveland in 1994 and will be worn by the team in August 2007 to honor the 60th anniversary of his major league debut.

Larry Doby's life reaches far beyond his achievements as a ballplayer and continue to resonate in sports and American society today.

Below are a selection of articles looking back on Doby's struggles, career, and impact. I'd recommend checking out at least one, if only to learn more about an important player in the Civil Rights Movement and baseball history.

Doby: the Forgotten Trailblazer, 7/5/07

Larry's Legacy, 7/5/07

Doby's Numbers, Attitude Speak Volumes, 7/5/07

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