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.

HBCU’s & The Negro Leagues: A Long Standing Kinship

HBCU’s & The Negro Leagues: A Long Standing Kinship

You pitched in high school with the idea of moving up to either college or the Negro Leagues. I went the college route and pitched with the idea of moving up to the Negro Leagues. It was my dream, just like a white teen’s dream would have been to move up to the Dodgers or Red Sox”— Garnett Blair, Homestead Grays pitcher.

 

While the opening of camps throughout Florida and Arizona signals the beginning of MLB’s Spring Training, this weekend also signals the beginning of the 2024 college baseball season.

 

Most importantly, the beginning of the HBCU baseball campaign is here as well.

HBCU Swingman Classic Comes To Texas | Ken Griffey Jr’s Star Shines Light On Black College Baseball’s Brightest

Several schools within the SWAC, CIAA, MEAC, and SIAC are giving many of us who are digging out snow or turning up the thermostat another reason to look forward to warmer weather.

HBCU Baseball and The Negro Leagues

It also allowed me to think about how HBCU’s were a true focal part to the beginning of Negro League baseball. In the formative years of the Negro Leagues, the talent pool of players stretched out from the local sandlots to the college ranks.

 

Most importantly, players like the aforementioned Garnett Blair, a standout for Virginia Union of the CIAA, began their baseball careers on black college campuses.

Schools like Morris Brown, Howard, Tuskegee, Clark Atlanta, Wilberforce, and others were the training grounds for some of the elite players in Negro League history.

Buck O’Neil, Frank Leland and Rube Foster 

Longtime Negro League icon Buck O’Neill attended Edward Waters College in Florida before beginning his career with the Miami Giants in 1934. One of the early pioneers of Negro League baseball, Frank Leland attended Fisk University in Tennessee.

 

Leland would later help form the Chicago Leland Giants in 1909. One of the pitchers for Leland in those formative years was a fellow by the name of Andrew “Rube” Foster, the father of Negro League baseball.

 

Even Foster’s brother, William had HBCU ties before beginning his Negro League career. The younger Foster attended Alcorn State before going to the Windy City to play with his older brother for the Chicago American Giants in 1923.

Impact Of HBCU On Negro Leagues

The impact of black college players are a huge part of Negro League baseball. From player-manager Dick Lundy (Bethune-Cookman) to future Brooklyn Dodger Joe Black (Morgan State), the HBCU influence was felt throughout the entire existence of the Negro Leagues.


While a comprehensive list of players would be too long to mention, what follows is a brief summary of some players that made a significant impact on their schools and their professional teams.

 

PITCHERS LAYMON YOKELY AND BUN HAYES

 

These two rivals from the CIAA were a big part of a pitching staff that helped lead the Baltimore Black Sox to the Negro American League pennant in 1929. A 6-foot-2 righty from Livingstone College, Yokely led Baltimore starters with a 19-11 mark that season.

 

The Winston-Salem, N.C. native threw six career no-hitters during his eight-year run (1926-33) with Baltimore. While hurling for LC, Yokley had several duels with his future teammate Hayes, who hurled for Johnson C. Smith and briefly for N.C. Central.

Hayes’ best season also came in 1929 when he finished 4-0 for the Black Sox.



THE 1946 NEWARK EAGLES


The Negro League champs (56-24-3) of that season had several players that attended HBCU schools including third baseman Andrew “Pat” Patterson (Wiley College) and outfielder Bob Harvey (Bowie State University).

A four sport athlete for the Bulldogs, Harvey would eventually be inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame for his prowess on the gridiron and the hardcourt.

However, it was the contributions of future Hall of Famers Larry Doby (Virginia Union) and Monte Irvin (Lincoln, Pa.) that helped put Newark over the top. While they were outfielders for the majority of MLB careers, the pair served as Newark’s keystone combination (Irvin at second, Doby at shortstop) during the championship season

A year before he became the American League’s first black ballplayer, Doby hit a blistering .360 to lead the Eagles in batting. Irvin, who hit .349 during the regular season, was Newark’s catalyst in their World Series triumph over the Kansas City Monarchs.

His .462 average with three homers and eight RBI led all starters in the 7-game series.


OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE:


Catcher Joshua Johnson

A power-hitting standout who also played football at Cheyney State University, Johnson might have developed into an all-time great if given the chance to play more.

 

His greatest misfortune was that he spent most of his career as a backup to future Hall of Famer Josh Gibson while toiling for the Homestead Grays. When Gibson opted to play in Mexico in 1940, Johnson hit a whopping .429 as the Grays won their fourth straight pennant.

Outfielder John “Sparkplug” Reese

A speedy, defensive standout for several teams including the Hillsdale Daisies and Chicago American Giants title teams of the early 20’s. This Morris Brown product and Florida native would later manage the St. Louis Stars to the Negro National League pennant in 1931.

Pitcher George Jefferson

In 1945, this product of Langston University helped lead the upstart Cleveland Buckeyes to a four-game sweep of the Homestead Grays in the Negro League World Series.

In a season where the 6-foot-2 Oklahoma native finished the regular season with an 11-1 mark, his highlight came when he tossed a three-hit shutout against the Grays in Game Three of the Series.

Catcher Nish Williams

Another power-hitting catcher who was a standout for Morehouse College before toiling for several Negro League squads including the Nashville Elite Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, and Atlanta Black Crackers.

His baseball legacy was continued at Morehouse by his son, Donn Clendenon. A three-time All-NAIA standout for the Tigers, Clendenon was the World Series MVP for the “Amazin” Mets in 1969.




NOTE:
The Biographical Encyclopedia of The Negro Baseball Leagues, When The Game Was Black And White, The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues, and The Black College Sports Encyclopedia all contributed to this story.

 

 

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

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

Earlier this week, the baseball world celebrated the 100th birthday of a pioneering ballplayer who integrated the American League, but his impact and talents are way too often forgotten. On December 13th, 1923, Lawrence “Larry” Eugene Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina.

 

On July 5, 1947, 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the modern-day MLB color barrier, Doby made his first Major League appearance as a pinch-hitter for the Cleveland Indians against the White Sox at Chicago breaking the American League’s color barrier.

 

Inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1998, Doby — wearing No. 14 — would strike out in that initial at-bat, but his contributions to the sport on and off the field still live on today.

 

A seven-time MLB All-Star and Negro League standout, Doby was a multi-sports athlete in high school and college. While Robinson has rightly been heralded over the years, we’ve decided to give Mr. Doby his due.

 

 

Today in honor of Doby’s birthday, MLBbro.com presents 14 things you should know about the ex-Negro Leaguer and Hall of Famer. After reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of his contributions to the game.

 

1. Doby is among some of the more prominent players to come from the Palmetto State. This includes former major leaguers Willie Randolph, Hall of Famers Al Rosen (a teammate of Doby’s), Marty Marion, and Jim Rice, and former White Sox outfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

 

2. Doby spent most of his formative years in Patterson, New Jersey and he began to play baseball for Eastside High School. Much like Robinson, baseball wasn’t Doby’s only sports talent. He would go on to win 11 varsity letters in football, track, and basketball. In fact, in 1943, he would briefly play hoops at Virginia Union University of the CIAA.

 

3. To maintain his amateur status at college, Doby played with the Newark Eagles under the assumed name of Larry Walker. It was a common practice by many college players when they played in the Negro Leagues. Doby’s teammate Monte Irvin, who attended Lincoln (Pa.) University played under the name Jimmy Nelson.

 

4. In 1943, Doby became the first black to play in the American Basketball League, a forerunner of the NBA, as a member of the Paterson (N.J.) Panthers. However, his brief career in hoops was interrupted by two years in the Navy.

 

5. When the Indians signed Doby, he became not only Cleveland’s first black ballplayer, he was also the first of 15 Negro Leaguers who would eventually play for the Tribe. Among them were Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, Luke Easter, Minnie Minoso, Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, Sam Jones, and Joe Caffie.

 

6. Doby was hitting a sizzling .458 with the Newark Eagles when he was signed by Cleveland. He only appeared sparingly for the Indians that season, getting just five hits in 32 at-bats over 29 games, all of which were played at either second base, shortstop or first.

 

7. Unlike most of the major league owners who failed to compensate the Negro League teams when they signed their players in 1947, Bill Veeck would compensate the Eagles. On July 1, he offered Effa and Abe Manley, owners of the Newark Eagles, $10,000 for Doby’s services, with $5,000 more on the table if the Indians kept him. Doby joined the Indians in Chicago four days later.

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

 

8. In his first full season in the Majors, Doby hit .301 with 14 homers and 66 RBIs in 1948. He would help lead the Tribe to the American League pennant. On October 9 in Game 4 of the World Series against the Boston Braves, Doby delivered the game-winning home run off Johnny Sain. Cleveland would go on the win the Series in six games.

 

9. From 1949 through 1955, Doby went on to play his way onto seven straight All-Star teams. In 1954, he finished second in the AL MVP voting when he led the league with 32 home runs and 126 RBIs. He again would lead Cleveland back to the World Series. Ironically, Doby and the Indians were swept by Monte Irvin’s New York Giants.

 

10. Doby was not only a baseball pioneer in the United States but overseas as well. In 1962, he and former Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe helped integrated Japan’s professional baseball league. Ironically, Newcombe and Doby were teammates in the Negro Leagues with the Newark Eagles.

 

11. In 1978, Doby became the major leagues’ second Black manager, with the White Sox. He followed Frank Robinson, who three years earlier was named player-manager for the Indians. Ironically, Doby replaced Bob Lemon, one of his former Indian teammates, as Chicago’s manager. Doby went 37-57 that season and wasn’t retained as manager. He was succeeded by Don Kessinger.

 

12. In the late 1970s, Doby briefly moved away from professional baseball and back into the basketball field, serving as the Director of Community Relations for the New Jersey Nets. Not only did it bring Doby full circle, it allowed him to encourage the development of several youth programs in urban New Jersey.

 

13. During his career, Doby was a .283 career hitter with 253 homers and 970 RBI in 1,533 games. He hit at least 20 homers in each season from 1949 to 1956, leading the league in 1952 (32) and 1954 (32), and appearing between the top ten leaders in seven seasons (1949, 1951-56). He hit for the cycle (1952), and also led the league in runs in 1952 (104), RBI in 1954 (126), on-base percentage in 1950 (.442), slugging percentage in 1952 (.541), and OPS in 1950 (.986).

 

14. Doby’s No. 14 was formally retired by the Indians on July 3, 1994. The last Cleveland player to wear the number was catcher Jesse Levis in 1992. Ironically, one of the last players to wear No. 14 for the Indians was Julio Franco. The ageless one, who played with the Tribe from 1983-88, wore the number during his first stint in Cleveland. During Franco’s second stint (1996-97) with Cleveland, he wore his current No. 23.

 

Although he was one of first Blacks to play in MLB, Doby was the last member elected to the Hall out of the four players to ever play in both a Negro league and MLB World Series, the others being teammates Satchel Paige, Monte Irvin, and Willie Mays.

 

When Doby passed away on June 18, 2003, he was honored by Major League Baseball. Former commissioner Fay Vincent stated “Larry’s role in history was recognized slowly and belatedly. Jackie Robinson, who broke the color line first but in the same year, quite naturally received most of the attention.”

 

“Larry played out his career with dignity and then slid gracefully into various front-office positions in basketball and then later in baseball. Only in the 90’s did baseball wake up to the obvious fact that Larry was every bit as deserving of recognition as Jackie.”

 

This story is written by Anthony McClean, MLBbro.com Historian 
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.