Larry Doby’s Congressional Gold Medal Is The First Of Its Kind and Represents A Transformative Time

Larry Doby’s Congressional Gold Medal Is The First Of Its Kind and Represents A Transformative Time

Larry Doby lived an historically-impactful life, which is sometimes overshadowed by Jackie Robinson preceding him as the first MLBbro in 1947. He was also baseball’s second Black manager when hired by the Chicago White Sox in 1978.

 

Doby was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on what would have been his 100th birthday, honored for his outstanding contributions to the game and breaking pro baseball’s racial barrier.

 

Celebrating 100th Birthday Of A Pioneering MLBbro: 14 Things You Should Know About Larry Doby

 

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, 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.’”

 

So when his son, Larry Doby Jr., finally got the opportunity to call the shots and control his dad’s legacy, he made sure that he was the first to change the rules on the way a Congressional Gold Medal would be crafted. Larry Doby Jr. waited five years for the production of the Congressional Gold Medal that he knows his father would have wanted created.

 

 

Larry Doby Jr. Wanted Medal To Reflect HIs Father’s True MLB Experience As Pioneer

 

When Congress voted to posthumously award Larry Doby, who died in 2003, the highest civilian honor in the country, the next step was having the U.S. Mint coordinates the image to be used with the family.

The front of the coin wasn’t controversial was easy, showing Larry Doby in front of Hinchliffe Stadium (Paterson, New Jersey), where he was a star two-sport athlete, eventually played for the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League.

According to reports, “the challenge for this project was the back. Doby Jr. didn’t just want an image of his father there; he also wanted his Cleveland Indians teammate and right-handed pitcher Steve Gromek on it. Since the Mint is charged with emblazoning the image of the medal recipient, its immediate response wasn’t a receptive one.

“I was told [by the Mint] right away,” Doby Jr. told MLB.com, “that that’s not what they do.”

Doby Jr. would not be deterred in his desire to represent his father’s legacy correctly and also shed light on an incredible, high-value, healing, baseball moment that history has overlooked.

 

In addition to being a standout player in the Negro Leagues, Doby was the first Black player to hit a home run in a World Series, a World War II veteran and the first Black player in the American League.

 

80,000 fans packed Municipal Stadium on Oct. 9, 1948, to watch the Indians win a 2-1 World Series game against the Boston Braves. Larry Doby was the power, blasting a go-ahead Bro bomb and Gromek tossed a complete game. The win was pivotal, as it put Cleveland up 3-1 in a series that it eventually won 4-2 two days later. The image Doby Jr. selected, was one of Larry Doby and Gromek hugging after Cleveland won the World Series.

 

Larry Doby and Steve Gomez on back of Congressional Gold Medal

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein/Yahoo)

 

The Cleveland Plain Dealer captured the photo, which depicted Doby and Gromek — with huge smiles, hugging one another. the photos of a Black and white man embracing spread like wildfire after the Associated Press distributed the images across the country.

 

It was a huge moment and that image — and the stir it caused — challenged all of the racist energy that consumed the country at that time. It meant more to Black people than whites at the moment. Over time, however, it’s become an example of a transformative period in our country’s history. The photo and the success of the Indians with Doby, spit on the face of oppressive ideology, legislation and egregious stereotypes that to this day hinder our country from reaching its full potential.

 

“That is the first time that I can recall — or many people can recall — that a Black and a white embraced each other in that fashion, [and it] went all over the world,” Larry Doby later told mlb.com. “That picture just showed to me the feelings that you have. You don’t think about it in terms of color. It’s a feeling you have for a person.”

 

Gromek died in 2002, as an enemy to the people of his hometown of Hamtramck, Michigan. His son, Carl Gromek, said “people were put off by it, so they would not engage him in conversation if they bumped into him. But I think my dad looked at it like, ‘They’ve got a problem, I don’t have a problem.’ He cherished that picture.”

 

Carl’s description of his dad’s honorable and humane behavior really shed a light on how powerful a bonding agent baseball can be. Players of different races and backgrounds working together to bring pride and joy to a city.

 

The medal was finally presented in a Dec. 18 ceremony and Doby Jr. and the Gromek family were in attendance at the event in Washington, D.C.

 

Larry Doby’s Congressional Gold Medal Celebrates His Ground-Breaking Achievements 

 

“It’s a beautiful image, a milestone image,” John McGraw, the designer and Mint medallic artist, said. “It’s also a celebration of Larry Doby being the first Black man to hit a homer in the World Series. To me, as a big baseball fan, I think it’s one of the most important milestones we have in baseball.”

 

Said Doby Jr.: That picture says a thousand words. And they’re a thousand damn good words.”

 

Clearly, Doby and Steve Gromek have ended up on the right side of history and are preserved in gold as shining examples of everything that’s great about this country and the game of baseball.