Salute to the Negro Leagues: The Great Baseball Pioneer, Larry Doby!

Salute to the Negro Leagues: The Great Baseball Pioneer, Larry Doby!

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Salute to the Great Baseball Pioneer, Larry Doby!

“It’s so nice to work for a man like Bill Veeck. You just work as hard as you can, and if the opportunity arises, you will certainly get the opportunity to fulfill your dreams” –Larry Doby, speaking of Bill Veeck, after being named White Sox manager in 1978.

“Larry will always have a role on this team in some capacity.” -White Sox owner Bill Veeck, speaking of Larry Doby.

Larry Doby is often overlooked by enormous shadow cast by Jackie Robinson, but his achievements also deserve recognition. So this is a good time to take a look at the career of this baseball pioneer.

In the featured photo below, we see Newark Eagles teammates Monte Irvin (left) and Larry Doby just before they signed contracts to play in the major leagues.

On July 5, 1947, Larry Doby became the first black to integrate the American League – after he was signed by Indians’ owner, Bill Veeck – in a game in Chicago at Comiskey Park. He entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter for relief pitcher Bryan Stephens and struck out in his first at-bat. Before the game that day, Doby met his new teammates for the first time. “I walked down that line, stuck out my hand, and very few hands came back in return. Most of the ones that did were cold-fish handshakes, along with a look that said, ‘You don’t belong here.’ ”

Doby was the first Negro League star to go directly into the major leagues. He had played with the Newark Eagles where he won a Negro League championship in 1946. Over his 13 year major league career (1947-’59), the 6’ 1”, 180 pound star centerfielder hit .283, with 253 home runs, 970 RBIs, a career OBP of .386, and a career slugging average of .490. He led the American League in numerous categories over his career: OBP in 1950 (.442); runs (104), home runs (32), and slugging (.541) in 1952; and home runs (32), and RBI (126) in 1954. He later played for the White Sox, Tigers, and Chunichi Dragons in the Japanese League.

A seven-time All-Star, Larry Doby and teammate Satchel Paige were the first African-Americans to play for a World Series winner when the Indians won the championship in 1948. In 1954, he had his best year, hitting .272, with 32 Home Runs, and 126 RBI, helping the Indians win a franchise-record 111 games and another pennant. He also finished second in American League MVP voting.

Doby later served as the second black manager, after Frank Robinson, in the majors with the White Sox in 1978, again under owner Bill Veeck. In 87 games, his team went 37-50 (.425). After his retirement as a player, he served as a scout and hitting coach for the Expos and White Sox. In 1995 he accepted a position in the American League’s executive office; and later served as a director of the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association. He was selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Hall’s Veterans Committee.

Larry Doby passed away in 2003 at the age of 79. His number 14 has been retired by the Indians.

-Gary Livacari

Photo Credit: “Baseball Americana – Treasures from the Library of Congress.” Others from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Larry Doby Wikipedia page

Statistics: From the Larry Doby Baseball-Reference.com.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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