PHILADELPHIA – This image shows Larry Doby, a trailblazer and Hall of Fame baseball player, on a U.S. postage stamp. Doby was the first African American to play on an American League baseball team.
It’s always nice to honor the true legends of the game. That’s exactly what the United States Postal Service will do this summer when they issue a postage stamp for Larry Doby, a trailblazer and a terrific baseball player. Doby will receive a postage stamp along with three other baseball greats Willie Stargell, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as a part of the Major League Baseball All-Stars stamps on July 20 at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Each of these Hall of Famers were outstanding major league players. They all made huge contributions. Doby was the first African American to play on an American League baseball team, joining the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947. He integrated the league just 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in the National League. In fact, this year is the 65th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
“This is quite an honor for him to be recognized by the United States Postal Service along with three other good guys Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Stargell,” said his son, Larry Doby, Jr. “It’s a great honor. I’m very proud of it. I’m looking forward to it. “
Doby helped to pave the way for other Blacks to play baseball. He helped to lay the foundation for racial progress in the game of baseball, which is known as America’s pastime.
Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina and raised mostly by his maternal grandmother while his mother made a living as a domestic worker in Paterson, N.J. He eventually joined his mother in Paterson and attended Eastside High School, where he picked up 11 varsity letters from playing different sports.
Prior to graduating from high school, Doby started his baseball career with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. After spending time in the U.S. Navy as a physical training instructor during World War II, Doby came back to the Eagles in 1946. That season he helped the Eagles defeat Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro World Series championship. Doby and Paige were great stars from the Negro Leagues. The Negro Leagues featured players such as Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Judy Johnson and Oscar Charleston. The following year Doby hit over .400 at midseason when Bill Veeck of the Cleveland Indians purchased his contract and brought him to the majors.
Doby’s white teammates gave him a chilly reception and he spent his first season on the bench. He batted .301 for the season and helped Cleveland win the pennant. During the fourth game of the World Series against the Boston Braves, he became the first Black player to hit a home run in a Major League Baseball World Series, which Cleveland won.
The following season Doby was chosen to the American League all-star team, which he made for each of the next six years. In 1950, Sporting News named him the best centerfielder in baseball, ahead of DiMaggio. He led the league in home runs and runs scored in 1952. Two years later, he again led the league in home runs, helping the Indians reach the World Series. In 1955, Doby set an American League record for an outfielder with 164 straight errorless games.
When his career was over, he coached for the Montreal Expos, the Cleveland Indians, and the Chicago White Sox. In 1978, Doby was hired as manager of the White Sox, making him the second African American to manage a major league team.
Doby was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. He died on June 18, 2003 in Montclair, N.J. With the U.S. Postal Service issuing stamps of Doby, DiMaggio, Stargell and Williams, young people can learn about their legacy and others can reflect on their magnificent baseball careers.
By Donald Hunt
Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune