Larry Doby: The First African American to Break the Color Barrier in the American League

Larry Doby: The First African American to Break the Color Barrier in the American League

Guest post by John Haas, Archivist, Ohio History Connection

Headlines like the above from the Ohio State News on July 17, 1947 appeared in Ohio and national newspapers noting this exceptional event. On July 5, 1947 Larry (Lawrence Eugene) Doby (1923-2003) made his Major League Baseball debut, becoming only the second African American after Jackie Robinson and the first African American player in the American League. He was signed by Bill Veeck, owner and president of the Cleveland Indians, from the Newark Eagles and their business manager Effa Manley on July 3, 1947.

Born in Camden, South Carolina, Larry Doby grew up in Paterson, New Jersey.  He was a four sport star at Eastside High School in Paterson and a high school legend in his own time.  He accepted a basketball scholarship to Long Island University, but also played professional baseball for the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues. He never got to play for Long Island University though with the start of World War II. Doby served in the US Navy until discharged in 1946. He returned to the Newark Eagles and helped them win the Negro Leagues championship in 1946 over the Kansas City Monarchs. In 1947 when he was picked by Bill Veeck to integrate the American League. Like Jackie Robinson in the National League, Larry Doby had to endure racial taunts and slurs during games, segregated living arrangements on the road and at home, and rejection from some of his team mates. However, also like Jackie Robinson, several Cleveland players like Joe Gordon, Jim Hegan and Mickey Vernon were friendly and supportive.

Larry Doby played for the Cleveland Indians from 1947 to 1955. He was instrumental in their World Series win over the Boston Braves in 1948. Doby played for the Chicago White Sox in 1956 and 1957, again for the Indians in 1958, and the Tigers and White Sox again in 1959, his last year in the Majors. In 1962 he was one of the first American players to play in the Japanese Nippon League when he suited up with the Chunichi Dragons. Doby was the second African American manager in Major League Baseball for the Chicago White Sox in 1978.

In addition to being a pioneer, Doby was an excellent player. He was a seven time All-Star (1949-1955), World Series Champion in 1948, two time American League home run leader (1952, 1954), American League leader for Runs Batted In (1954). His career batting average is .283, he hit 253 home runs, had 970 runs batted in, and a managerial record of 37-50. His number, 14, has been retired by the Cleveland Indians and he is in the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame. In 1998 Doby was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

An informative article on Larry Doby recently appeared in the July-August 2018 issue of our Echoes Magazine. There are several documentaries and numerous biographies about Larry Doby, his career, his role in the integration of Major League Baseball, and his positive impact our Great American Pastime.

The pennant and pin below will appear in our upcoming Ohio— Champion of Sports exhibit opening in March 2019. We are also hoping to have a newly received item in the exhibit–a 1950 comic book by Fawcett Publications titled “Larry Doby Baseball Hero”.

Posted August 27, 2018
Topics: Daily Life

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