Monday, July 10, 2017
Every baseball fan and most other people know who Jackie Robinson was. He was the first African-American to break the color barrier of Major League Baseball in 1947. What many people don't know is that just three months later on July 5, 1947, the second Black ballplayer entered the league. That player came straight from the Negro League to the Cleveland Indians. He was Larry Doby, making him the first American League player of color.
Larry was a talented outfielder who played 13 seasons in the majors for Cleveland, ChiSox, and Detroit. He had a .283 lifetime batting average, was a seven-time all-star, two-time AL home run leader, one-time AL RBI leader, and a member of the 1948 World Championship team. Doby was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 by the veterans committee, many years too late. Thankfully, Larry was still alive to receive the honor.
Maybe destined to always be number two, Larry became the second Black manager in Major League history. He managed the 1978 Chicago White Sox for about half the season.
Since there was no inter-league play back in those days, Doby had to break the color barrier in every American League city the Indians played in 1947, just like Jackie Robinson did in the National League cities.
The men who brought them into the major leagues deserve credit too. Branch Rickey with Jackie and Bill Veeck with Larry. Like Larry, Veeck is largely forgotten for his contribution. It doesn't pay to be second.
Seventy years ago two brave Black men entered a previously all white domain. They entered a completely segregated and highly prejudiced environment. They played in front of mostly white and segregated crowds. They endured racial slurs, death threats, and untold indignities from players and the fans.
Let's all celebrate Larry and Jackie and Bill and Branch in this 70th year of an integrated Major League.