— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) July 5, 2021
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.
Robinson is the only player to have his number retired throughout an entire professional sporting league. Through donations, customized cleats, letters and shirts, the league and its players found many ways to honor the Brooklyn Dodgers Legend.
First, the Players Alliance which is a nonprofit organization funded by active and former players seeking to improve the representation of Black America in baseball, made a huge splash.
More than 230 members of the group including David Price, Mookie Betts, Jason Heyward, Marcus Semien and Jackie Bradley Jr. pledged to donate their full game day salary in support of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
David Price, Jason Heyward, Jackie Bradley Jr. among more than 100 MLB Players donating game-day salary on Jackie Robinson Day to support the Players Alliance.
“What Jackie Robinson means to me…He is an inspiration whose life and works transcended far past just baseball. His sacrifices made this world a better place,” said Jackie Bradley Jr. when asked about Robinson’s impact.
The organization is also planning to make a financial commitment to the Jackie Robinson Foundation to support the launch of the Players Alliance and JRF Scholarship Fund, empowering students to receive scholarship money for Fall 2021.
Last season the group raised over $1 million on Jackie Robinson Day and the money was invested into Black communities.
The Players Alliance hooked each player up with “Breaking Barriers” Nike Warm-up shirts for batting practice. We also saw many players with customized “42” cleats such as Tim Anderson, Franciso Lindor and Alex Bregman.
Many players took the time to express what Jackie Robinson Day means to them.
“I just want to say thank you so much for everything that you have done for the sport, for people like me, people like you and for people around the world that would have had a very tough time trying to do what we are doing today in any sport. So I salute you,” said Miami Marlin’s second baseman Jazz Chisholm, who is the third Bahamian-born player to make the Major Leagues.
From San Diego Padres outfielder Tommy Pham: “Wearing 42 today is a step in the right direction. It signifies equality and it signifies meaning as a Black man in this game being able to live the childhood dream.”
The most rewarding part of Jackie Robinson Day is seeing all diversity at its best with players of all races honoring one of the most important Civil Rights legends this world has seen.
Jackie balled hard each time he laced his cleats up. He stayed committed and bravely fought through any and every adversity he faced.
The Universe is a crazy place, but seeing everyone come together on this special day to celebrate a common goal gives us hope in the race for equality.
We should recognize that Major League Baseball has worked, through the RBI youth baseball program and the effort of a number of individual players, both past and present, to develop young talent.
Three of the top 15 prospects on MLB.com are Black Americans, with more in the pipeline each year.
Still, with all of the great things going on, there is work to be done.
Half of the teams in Major League Baseball have one or fewer Black players on their active rosters. We must also acknowledge baseball having exactly two more active Black managers than it did when Robinson died.
With LeBron James becoming a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, there are now three Black men sitting in the owner’s boxes, yet there isn’t a single Black man or woman running a team’s operations.
That’s why organizations like The Players Alliance are so important.
While our nation as a whole attempts to reckon with the issue of diversity throughout society, they work within the structure of the game to continue to break the barrier that Jackie first fought through in 1947.
More than 150 members strong, the alliance maintains a number of programs that are focused on generating action as much as awareness.
And that’s the role I believe we want to play here at MLBBro.com. Generating action and awareness.
In honor of Jackie Robinson Day on April 15th, the newly launched LEOVICI, is hooking up with Seattle Mariners Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford to drop a limited edition LEOVICI x JP Crawford “42” hoodie.
The garment features a black and white portrait of Jackie Robinson on a bone-colored hoodie. All proceeds will be donated to theJackie Robinson Foundation.
“As a company that prides itself on innovation, excellence, and its promise to disrupt “the way things are”, Robinson is not just one of our inspirations, but also one of our greatest heroes. His performance on the field speaks for itself,” says Brent Wheatley, founder of LEOVICI, a luxury menswear athletic brand manufacturer.
Wheatley is a former professional baseball player who used his family’s career path as inspiration. Brent’s father, Bob was a co-owner of the golf apparel & lifestyle brand, TravisMathew, and Brent’s grandfather William was an original board member at Nike and was actively involved during its formative years.
Reflecting on Jackie Robinson and his legacy has inspired the brand to partner with the 26-tear-old Crawford. The rising star represents the next generation of legends in the making, as well as the continuation of the past 74 years of Black baseball excellence, dating back to 1947 when Robinson integrated the game, opening up the flood gates for Black talent that would go on to dominant baseball’s record books.
While also pushing the limits of what’s possible on a baseball diamond.
Crawford has also been impacted on and off the field by the life and actions of Robinson. When asked about his impact, Crawford, a descendant of interracial parents started off by stating, “without him I probably wouldn’t have been born, he broke barriers that were larger than baseball. That man changed the course of history… BY HIMSELF! He took on what so many people can’t even bear to take on a piece of.”
That “42” hoodie is proper drip, from everything it represents to the face on the front to the company and the young Black Knight associated with the tribute wears.