Larry Doby: The Man Who Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier

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In the wake of his death in 2003, Larry Doby was posthumously awarded a congressional medal for his services to baseball. He was the second baseball player of color to play after Jackie Robinson and the first to play in the American League. 

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He achieved incredible success in both the Negro and the baseball leagues. Keep reading to find out more about Larry Doby’s career.

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Larry Doby’s Early Career

Larry Doby: The Man Who Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier
Larry Doby in his statue unveiling ceremony. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Larry Doby is a South Carolina native from Camden. He suffered loss at an early age after his father, who also played baseball died in a road accident. By this time, his parents were divorced and his mother moved to New Jersey, leaving him with his grandmother.

Doby went to Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy where he first played organized baseball, where Richard Dubose, his father’s manager coached him. He then moved to Paterson Eastside High School where he continued playing baseball and took up basketball, track & field and football. 

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Baseball Teams

Larry Doby’s Baseball career highlights. Video Credit: JVJ Sports

The baseballer’s first team in his young career were the Smart Sets and the Harlem Renaissance but later received an offer to play for a basketball team at Long Island University Brooklyn. 

Before joining, another offer from the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League arrived and he opted for this instead. His first professional game was against the New York Cubans at the Yankee Stadium. 

Shortly after joining, Dobby left to serve in the United States Army in World War II. Upon his return, he helped the Newark Eagles win the Negro World Series in 1946.

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Breaking the Color Barrier

Larry Doby’s career review. Video Credit: CBS New York

The Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck was the first team to allow a black player, Jackie Robinson, to play in the team. Bill Veeck led efforts to integrate the segregated leagues, but his counterparts turned down his proposal. 

Despite that, he signed Larry Doby, and the player became the first black player in the American League and the second to play in Major League Baseball. As expected, the Center Field was racially abused by fans and wasn’t allowed to use the same facilities as white players, but he persevered.

His former manager Lou Boudreau and teammate Mel Harder remember a player who didn’t complain in the face of injustice. He kept his cool and let his performance speak for itself. 

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First Black Player to Hit a Home Run

Throughout the 1947 season, he didn’t get a lot of game time but managed to bat .156 in 29 games. The following year, the baseballer proved his critics wrong. He batted .301 to lead the Cleveland Indians to a World Series and the American League (AL) pennant. 

On route to this remarkable achievement, Larry Doby became the first African-American player to hit a home run. His success in the competition continued, hitting .326 in the 1950 campaign.

Two years later, he achieved another milestone, becoming the first African-American player to be a home run leader and then score a home run in the All-Star Game. In 1954, he played in the World Series again but struggled.

The athlete played in the league until 1959. His batting average was .288, 273 home runs and 1,099 runs batted in. 

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Management Career

Larry Doby’s association with baseball continued in a managerial capacity. He first worked as a scout for the Montreal Expos, then as a minor league instructor before working as a batting coach for the team. 

Between 1970 and 1971, Dobby got his first managerial experience in Venezuela and later returned to the Cleveland Indians to work as a base coach. Due to his long association with the Cleveland Indians, many thought he was poised to be the first black manager in the league. However, that honor went to Frank Robinson. 

Even though he wasn’t the first, Larry Doby was the second black manager in the league when he took over the Chicago White Sox. In 1978, he was promoted to the managerial position of batting coach. Dobby’s tenure was short-lived – four months.

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Recognition

For much of his career, Dobby’s achievements went unnoticed. He came second several times, but that didn’t improve his experience. However, baseball noted his impact as the years went by.

In 1996, the Cleveland Indians retired his jersey number 14. Two years later, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 2012, a first-class forever postage stamp was issued.

Three years later, the Cleveland Indians erected a statue of him in its ballpark. In 2018, Larry Doby received a congressional medal for his achievements. 

Larry Doby might have been a man of many seconds but his legacy remains solid. He took the hit and stood up for all the other players of color who came after him, even after Jackie Robinson opened the doors. 

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