Larry Doby Day | Jackie Robinson Was First, Doby Was Second, But They Faced The Same Plight As Blacks Integrating MLB

Larry Doby Day | Jackie Robinson Was First, Doby Was Second, But They Faced The Same Plight As Blacks Integrating MLB

How many people remember the second man to walk on the moon?

We’re conditioned to remember who did something first. First is always notable, either in success or failure.

Those who come second can be remarkable in their own right. Their achievement can be just as historic.

But too often, their greatness remains forever obscured by the ones who came first.

Larry Doby is one of those people.

 

 

There was no celebration on Monday for Doby, who made his debut in the major leagues on July 5, 1947; just weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the modern color barrier for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Doby integrated the American League with the Cleveland Indians. Signed by legendary owner Bill Veeck, who initially proposed integrating baseball in 1942, Doby played his final game for the Negro League’s Newark Eagles on July 4 before joining his teammates in Chicago for a series with the White Sox.

 

Faced Same Bigoted Abuse As Jackie Robinson

His trials were no less harsh than Robinson’s. Larry Doby was shunned by his own teammates, required constant security, and remained segregated from the rest of his team on the road. He only started one game during his rookie year, getting just 29 at-bats in 33 games.

In a 1978 interview with Jet magazine, Doby said “Jackie got all the publicity for putting up with [racial abuse], but it was the same thing I had to deal with. He was first, but the crap I took was just as bad. Nobody said, ‘We’re gonna be nice to the second Black.’”

 

The Power Of Black Baseball

What Doby did have, was the support of his community. During that first weekend series in Chicago, Black fans flooded Comiskey Park. Estimates from that time suggested that roughly 30 percent of the crowd was Black, as they came in droves from their homes and churches to witness for themselves the same history that fans in the National League had been watching with Robinson.

That had to carry him through the frustration of leaving the Negro Leagues, where he had been an All-Star and a champion, to being a utility infielder who wasn’t being utilized.

Jackie Robinson was given the benefit of a minor league spring training and an organization that had a plan for his career. Doby, at 24-years-old, was alone in a world that used him as an example to prove that Blacks weren’t capable of competing on the field with their white counterparts.

Moved to the outfield in 1948, Doby rediscovered his game in a major way. The Indians won the World Series and Doby was a major factor, batting .301 with 14 home runs and 66 RBI. He led Cleveland with a .318 average in the series.

In just one year, the Indians had proven that an integrated team could win a championship. Furthermore, Doby proved that he just needed the opportunity. He paved the way for Negro League legend Satchel Paige, who joined the Indians late in that 1948 season and at the alleged age of 41 went 6-1 with a 2.48 earned run average over 21 games.

Between 1948 and 1955, Larry Doby was one of the best players in all of baseball. He made the All-Star team in seven consecutive seasons, and finished in the top 10 of the AL MVP balloting twice (1950, 1954).

 

 

As a result, the Indians were one of the best teams for most of the decade, winning the pennant again in 1954 before losing the World Series in four games. That season he became the first Black player to hit a home run in the All-Star game, as the American League won 11-9.

Perennial All-Star Despite Daily Racism

His eight-year average stat line boasted a .287 batting average, 25 home runs, 91 runs batted in, 96 runs scored, and 84 walks.  In 2019, only Cody Bellinger and Mike Trout produced that same level of across-the-board excellence.

Injuries led to a premature end of Doby’s prime. And like many Black athletes at the time, the end of his tenure was greeted with disdain rather than respect. He was labeled as “sullen” and “surly,” though he was the one who endured racism on a daily basis from society, the fans, and his own teammates.

After a solid 1956 season with the same White Sox he debuted against, Larry Doby was unable to be an everyday player, and he retired in 1959. 

A decade later Doby went to work as a scout and was the first base coach for the Indians in 1974 with hopes of becoming a manager. However, it was Frank Robinson whom Cleveland selected to be MLB’s first Black manager. 

Though passed over, he would return to Cleveland two years later as batting coach under Robinson. 

Second Black Manager In Baseball

Finally, on June 30, 1978, Larry Doby would get his chance as manager of the Indians, becoming the second Black manager in baseball history. After going 37-50 under his leadership, Cleveland decided to return Doby to his previous role. 

He never got a second chance at managing and retired from baseball for good in 1979.

It isn’t right that Doby’s story has been pushed aside. There’s no room for him in baseball’s chosen history. 

Doby was ignored when baseball celebrated the retirement of Robinson’s number 42 across MLB. He wasn’t inducted into the Hall of Fame until the Veteran’s Committee selected him in 1998, nearly 30 years after his last game. And though he was the first to do so, he was the last of the only four players to compete in both a Negro League and Major League World Series.

 

 

Larry Doby was a pallbearer at Jackie Robinson’s funeral, and his achievements were effectively buried alongside the icon.

Though his number 14 has been retired in Cleveland, his story largely remains untold.

It’s our job and our responsibility to keep the name and career of Larry Doby alive. While his societal impact may not approach that of Robinson, his place in the game should be just as secure.

Baseball Nation Should Celebrate Larry Doby Day

Larry Doby was a hero.

Larry Doby is a hero.

Let’s remember that together next July 5.

 

Dave Winfield  | The Twin Cities’ Greatest Athlete

Dave Winfield | The Twin Cities’ Greatest Athlete


 

By Devon POV Mason | Contributor 

 

David Mark Winfield was born in the Rondo Community of St. Paul, MN. He’s one of the greatest five-tool baseball forces the game has ever seen.

 

 

He attended St. Paul Central High School Adams earned a scholarship to the University of Minnesota.

There he starred in both basketball and baseball for his hometown Gophers.

After hitting and pitching the Gophers to the College World Series in 1973, he was drafted by the San Diego Padres (MLB), Minnesota Vikings (He didn’t even play college football),  the Atlanta Hawks (NBA), and the Utah Stars of the (ABA).

 

 

He is one of only two men to be drafted by three different professional sports. Winfield chose baseball and gained another distinction when the Padres promoted him directly to the Major Leagues.

This rare move in modern baseball made him one of a select few players since the origins of the amateur draft in 1965 to make the leap straight to Major League Baseball without playing in the minors leagues first. But Winfield proves up to the task, batting .277 in 56 games.

 

For the next several years, e gradually increased his power and hits. In 1979 he went from good to great, when he batted .308 with 34 home runs and 118 RBI. He then played one more season with the Padres before becoming a free agent.

In 1981, Winfield made headlines by signing a 10-year $23 million contract with the New York Yankees, a deal which made him the highest-paid in MLB at the time.

 

 

Winfield was one of the best players in the game throughout the life of the contract. He helped the Yankees to the 1981 American League Pennant, but then had a poor showing in the World Series, a six game loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He bounced back in 1982 with a spectacular season hitting 37 home runs. He batted .340 in 1984, which was the second highest average in MLB, behind teammate Don Mattingly.  Between 1982 and 1988 he drove in 744 runs, won five Gold Gloves, and was named to the All-Star Game every season.

On August 4, 1983, Winfield, while warming up accidentally killed a seagull with a thrown ball. Following the game he was brought to the Ontario Provincial Police station on charges of animal cruelty and forced to post $500 bond before being released.

 

 

For years, following this incident Winfield’s appearances in Toronto entailed loud choruses of boos, but he later became a fan favorite with his championship leadership.

In 1989, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was suspended from running the club following his connections to a gambler, whom he’d paid to find embarrassing information on Winfield. That year was no better for Winfield as he sat out due to injury. The following season he was traded to the California Angels, and although he was in his late 30’s, Winfield was still a productive hitter.

In 1992, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as their designated hitter, and batted a potent .296 with 26 homers and 108 RBI. The Blue Jays won the pennant, giving Winfield a shot at redemption after unfairly being labeled “Mr. May” by Steinbrenner during his Yankees tenure for past World Series failures.

In Game 6 of the World Series, he delivered with a game and championship winning two-run double to win the Fall Classic for the Blue Jays.

 

 

He then spent 1993 and ‘94 wit the hometown Minnesota Twins, where he achieved the 3000 hit plateau. He ended his playing career in Cleveland with the Indians.

Winfield retired in 1995 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, in his first year of eligibility.

He became the first player to choose to go into Cooperstown as a San Diego Padre, a move that reportedly irked Steinbrenner so much he tried to get the Hall of Fame to change its rules that did not allow the inductee to choose their team.

 

 

Dave Winfield is the best professional athlete to come from the state of Minnesota.

Yet he has another passion in which he has supported for 30 years; supporting the educational advances of young Blacks in his hometown of St Paul. The “Winfield Student-Athlete” annual awards are given out each June to 12 deserving boys and girls.

It recognizes and supports their academic choices to SOAR after leaving high school.

 

 

He’s also written two books: “Dropping The Ball: Baseball’s Troubles and How We and Must Solve Them” (2007) and “Making The Play: How to Get the Best of Baseball Back” (2008).

Barry Larkin Elevated The Shortstop Position

Barry Larkin Elevated The Shortstop Position

By Devon POV Mason | Contributor 

Barry Larkin wanted to be a shortstop ever since he was a kid watching his idol, Ozzie Smith, on television. Growing up in the Cincinnati suburbs, Larkin wanted to play for the legendary Cincinnati Reds and replace Dave Concepcion at short.

He says his dream was to replace Concepcion and then become the greatest shortstop in Reds history.

Via baseballhall.org:

“Born April 28, 1964, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Larkin was an honor student and athletic star at Cincinnati’s Moeller High School and enrolled at the University of Michigan with the idea of playing both baseball and football.

But when legendary UM football coach Bo Schembechler advised Larkin to redshirt his freshman year, Larkin’s path to Cooperstown began.”

 

After college, Larkin played on the 1984 US Olympic Team. When he got to the Reds, he eventually replaced Concepcion.

Larkin also wanted to wear No.1 to honor his idol Ozzie, but the equipment manager told Larkin the number was retired and permanently reserved for Fred Hutchinson.

Larkin had no idea who Hutchinson was, but he asked for No.11 to reinforce how much he admired and idolized “The Wizard of Ozzie”

 

Barry eventually wrestled the Gold Glove away from Ozzie, won an MVP Award, and had his number retired by the Reds also.

Of the great shortstops, Larkin possibly has the best compilation of skills: He could run as fast as teammate Eric Davis, he possessed the strongest arm among the shortstops of his generation —  and only Ozzie was better with the web.

 

 

A multi-faceted batter, Larkin concentrated on hitting for average, stealing bases and setting the table. But he was capable of going deep when the situation called for it. He stole 51 bases in 141 games, while winning the NL MVP in 1995, but for some reason was criticized for not driving in enough runs, so he came back the following season and banged all his critics in the head with 33 home run and 36 steals at the age of 32.

The Injury Bug

It’s hard to discuss Larkin without mentioning his injury-riddled history. He was placed on the disabled list fourteen times in his career. He only had 6 seasons where he didn’t spend time on the DL.

Those injuries  (legs, thumbs, knee, shoulders, and even his toe), sidelined him for 450 career games. That alone probably cost him another 450-500 hits with his batting prowess. The talent was always evident, but despite his HOF swag, and championship pedigree, he always faced criticism, and was even referred to as “Mr. Glass.”

He had to continuously prove himself and relied on a strong will to overcome setbacks.

Cooperstown Worthy 

Larkin was a 12-time All-Star, including his final season when he was still a valuable player. Despite his frequent absence from the lineup, Larkin was always a great teammate and team leader.

He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012, following a career also garnered him an  MVP (1995), World Series Title (1990), three Gold Glove Awards and nine Silver Slugger Awards.

 

 

He was simply a stud up the middle and one of the finest examples of MLBbro excellence at the shortstop position.

The Incomparable Reggie Jackson Celebrates 75th Birthday| Nobody Was Clutch Like Mr. October

The Incomparable Reggie Jackson Celebrates 75th Birthday| Nobody Was Clutch Like Mr. October

By Devon Mason| Contributor 

 

Reggie Jackson aka Mr. October was Dynamic, Controversial and Amazing

Reggie Jackson ranks as one of the most dynamic players to ever walk onto a baseball diamond. Called “Mr. October” because of his clutch hits in the postseason for the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees, Jackson proved he deserved his Hall of Fame selection in 1993 after 21 seasons in the big leagues.

Action Jackson played for the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, and California Angels between 1967 and 1987. His most famous moment, which elevated him to iconic status in the annals of New York’s illustrious sports history, was a performance for the ages in the 1977 World Series.

 

 

Jackson was born on May 18, 1946 in Wyncote, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. His father was a World War II veteran and small business owner, running a dry cleaning and tailoring business. Despite Jackson’s multi-sport prowess, his father insisted that his son get a college degree.

Reggie attended Arizona State on a football scholarship, but that itch for baseball never went away.

Possessing tremendous power at the plate, he hit three home runs during five at-bats in his walk-on tryout at ASU.

That’s when it became 100 percent “Go-Time” with baseball.

Jackson spent the summer between his freshman and sophomore years working on his baseball skills and in his sophomore year he completely dedicated himself to diamond mining.

Success immediately followed, as Jackson set the school’s single-season home run record in 1966 and was named an All American.

The Athletics, then based in Kansas City, drafted him in June 1966.

Jackson spent his years with the Athletics, Orioles, Yankees and Angels. All four franchises were winners while he played for them.

The A’s moved to Oakland in 1968, Jackson had been called up earlier that summer, and that’s when both Reggie and the Athletics began to take off.

In 1969, Jackson hit 49 home runs and was on pace to break Roger Maris’ home run record. The A’s won the World Series three straight seasons (1972-74). Jackson was named World Series MVP in 1973. He was also considered controversial and known for being flamboyant, confident and outspoken.

When a teammate was asked if Jackson was a “hot dog” – a showoff – on the field, the reply was, “There isn’t enough mustard in the world to cover that dog.”

Reggie understood the value of star power and charisma and the Muhumad Ali style of ego jousting that captivated fans and media long before it was popular.

During his years in the “Bronx” with the Yankees, they won the 1977 and 1978 World Series. He was named MVP of the 1977 Fall Classic. His time in New York was marred by a tumultuous relationship with alcoholic manager Billy Martin who eventually quit his job in 1978, saying Jackson and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner “were made for each other.”

As a member of the Angels, they did not make the World Series but did win the AL West division title in 1982 and 1986, the first and last year of Jackson’s tenure with the team. He signed a contract with the Athletics in 1987, retiring at season’s end.

 

 

He finished his Hall of Fame career with 563 home runs, 11 playoff appearances, six league pennant wins, five World Series Championships, and 14 MLB All-Star selections.

Reggie has many memorable moments but these three stand out:

1. His three home run game in the 1977 World Series, it happened in Game 6 versus the Los Angeles Dodgers and is the “stuff of legendary proportions.” That game was the series and championship clincher for the “Bronx Bombers.” Every blast was on the first pitch of his at-bat. On the third one, commentator Howard Cosell said.

2. What a colossal blow!” Fearful of fans who had thrown firecrackers onto the field, Jackson donned a batting helmet to wear at his position in rightfield and sprinted to the dugout after the final out, in the process, knocking a few fans out of the way.

 

 

3. At the team’s 1978 home opener, the Yankees allowed Standard Bar to debut a new candy bar with his namesake attached to it. The “Reggie Bar”, was circular and it contained peanuts and was covered with caramel and chocolate. Jackson went yard in this game, and fans celebrated by throwing the candy bars on the field. Jackson misunderstood, thinking the fans didn’t like the candy bar. There was also a memorable commercial made for the product.

 

 

Of course, there were many other moments, such as Jackson hitting the go-ahead home run that gave the Yanks the lead and eventual win, in the 1978 playoff game against the arch-rival Boston Red Sox.

Jackson was a dynamic, controversial and amazing player that you couldn’t stop watching. He understood the value of theatre and never wilted in the big moment. He was uncanny in the way he seemed to perform his best when the stakes are high.

He’s the definition of a Hall of Famer, representing those transcending MLBbro personalities missing in today’s game to a large degree.

A captivating Black Knight who everybody wanted to be like. His three home runs in one World Series game would alone make him a legend. And for two decades he proved to be a winner no matter where he played.