The 2007 documentary film “Pride Against Prejudice: The Larry Doby Story” was based upon the authorized biography of Doby with the same name written by fellow New Jerseyan Joseph Thomas Moore (who coproduced the documentary) that was published in 1988. Despite its title, the book is more a sports biography, less an account of desegregation than the documentary is. I might say that Moore was Doby’s ventriloquist, except that in showing the bumpy course of Doby’s career, Moore frequently quotes Doby, so the book approaches being an “as told to” memoir. There is a lot of game-by-game summarizing of what Doby did.
Archival film footage can show Doby hitting and talking. The spaciousness of a book allows for considerably greater detail-and not just the x hits in y at-bats accounts of particular games. IMO what the book does very well is to sort out how Frank Robinson instead of Doby became manager of the Indians in 1974 and why Bill Veeck (“rhymes with wreck”-the title of his memoirs that I read long, long ago), who signed Doby for a series of different jobs hired Doby in mid-season (to replace former Indian team-mate and friend Bob Lemon) and then did not rehire him. The book also has much more about Doby’s childhood and being shuffled around (contributing to his introversion).
As in the documentary film, the highlight of the book is Doby’s belated (1998) entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, elected by the Veterans’ Committee. He made a stirring speech, including paying tribute to Veeck. This occurred a decade after the book was published. (Alas, the documentary has not led to a second edition that extends coverage to the last 15 years of Doby’s life.)
Both book and film make clear that Doby had to put up with the same indignities that Robinson did (including not being able to stay in the same hotel as the rest of the team during 9 of 13 spring trainings, extending until 1959). The book discusses one MLB first for Doby: being the first black player to throw the first punch in an on-field fight (after being thrown at by Yankee pitcher Art Dittmar in 1957).
The final chapter contrasting the personalities and self-presentations of Doby, Robinson, and Paige is insightful.
There are 8 photos (but not the famous one that’s discussed in both, and shown in the movie, of Doby and winning pitcher Steve Gromek beaming in an embrace after a 1948 World Series victory) and major-league (but not Negro League!) career statistics.
The book has more on Doby’s military service in the segregated WWII Navy and in the Negro Leagues before and after that. Doby was born in South Carolina, but mostly grew up in Patterson, NJ, playing sports with blacks and whites, and being voted all-state in three sports. He led the Newark Eagles to a Negro League championship in 1946, and was hitting .458 when he left in midseason 1947.
Jackie Robinson had a year in the Dodgers’ Montreal farm club to adjust to being the only black player on a white team before beginning his illustrious career in Brooklyn. Doby was thrust directly into the major leagues-in part because the Cleveland farm teams were south of the Mason-Dixon line. The book makes clear that Veeck had sought to integrate professional baseball earlier, but was blocked my Baseball Commissioner (Southern ex-judge) Kennesaw Mountain Landis until his death late in 1944.
Both had to suffer much in silence, but Robinson was not only first but much more-publicized, playing in NYC. Doby was a star of the World Series-winning Cleveland team of 1948 and of the Indians team that won 111(/152) games in 1954 before losing the World Series.
Doby hit at least 20 homers each season from 1949-56, leading the league in 1952 and 1954. A second-baseman for Newark, he was thrown in at first base (having to borrow a glove from the opponents, since his team-mate refused to let him use his), and became a seven-time All-Star center fielder, setting a Major-League record of 164 errorless games (1954-55) that stood for 17 year (broken by Al Kaline, BTW).
“Buck” O’Neill, who’d been a teammate of both Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson told Moore: “Satchel would say, ‘Get outta my face,’ but Jackie would take it home with him, but that was the catalyst that made Jackie such a great player-‘I’ll show ya, I’ll show ya, I’ll show ya.'” Doby commented that he “was much younger than Jackie, in age and the kind of exposure Jackie had had at UCLA and as an officer in the army…. Another difference between Jack and me is that I was never a public crusader. My way of fighting racisim is to do it individually, privately…. I don’t think I’m a crusader for blacks. I think I’m an individual who knows about double standards, who knows about injustice” (although it seems to me that Doby was a crusader for getting black coaches and mangers into the game).
And Paige was the kind of smiling raconteur (the word “minstrel” is not used, but Moore makes the analogy to the Harlem Globetrotters-“the comic fool who first performs, magically, and then laughs all the way to the bank. “I didn’t like it when guys laughed at Satch’s stories,” Doby told Moore,” because I knew they were also laughing at Satch himself as a black man.” Indian roommates for a year, Doby recalled that he really shared a room with Paige’s luggage, because Paige had a woman in every port of call. (Doby’s first year, he roomed with club official “Spud” Goldstein,. who, according to Moore got a first baseman’s glove for Doby to use when he was put in at first base. This contrasts with the claim in the movie that a glove had to be borrowed from the opponents.)
(Doby moved to Paterson, New Jersey at the age of 14 and was a three-sport all-state athlete there. He had a basketball scholarship at Long Island University (and played second-base for the Newark Eagles when he was 17) before going into the US Navy. He also died in New Jersey (Montclair) in 2003. Doby was commemorated on 2012 a US Post Office issue along with Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Willie Stargell.)