While sports fans often sing the praises of Jackie Robinson and his feat of breaking baseball's color barrier, similar praise should be given to a fellow Hall of Famer- Larry Doby. Breaking into the pro ball ranks in the Negro League at age 17, Doby would become the first black player to play for an American League team, debuting with the Cleveland Indians in 1947 - shortly after Robinson broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The first player to jump directly from the Negro League to the Majors, Doby made an immediate impact, becoming an all-star center fielder for the tribe while helping to lead his team to a world title in 1948.
Doby would enjoy a productive 13-seasons in the Majors before retiring and becoming an executive for the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Veterans Committee.
I created this sketch card in October 2012.
10 random facts about Larry Doby:
- Doby joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and would return to pro ball in 1946.
- While serving in the Navy, Doby would meet fellow Navy man and future teammate Mickey Vernon. Vernon, then with the Washington Senators, was so impressed with Doby's skills he wrote to Senators owner Clark Griffith, encouraging Griffith to sign Doby should the MLB ever allow integration.
- Unlike Robinson's debut in the Majors - which came after a period of planning and some time in the minor leagues - the decision to integrate Doby was more sudden; team owner Bill Veeck felt that fan reaction would be more positive if Doby just appeared on the field, ready to play ball for Cleveland when the team felt it was the right time.
- In 1948, Doby experienced his first spring training with the Indians in Tucson, Arizona. Unlike their white teammates, Doby, along with Satchel Paige and fellow black Major Leaguer Minnie Miñoso, were not permitted to stay at the nearby Santa Rita hotel but instead stayed with a local black family and used a rental car provided by the Indians for transportation.
- Doby and teammate Paige became the first African-American players to win a World Series championship when the Indians won in 1948.
- In 1962, Doby came out of retirement and became the third American to play pro ball in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League.
- He was the first black player to hit a homer in the World Series and in an All-Star Game.
- In 1978, Doby became the second African-American manager in the Majors when he took over the reins for the Chicago White Sox.
- Doby's uniform number 14 was retired by the Cleveland Indians on July 3, 1994.
- Doby became the first person born in South Carolina to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.