When you hear the name Jackie Robinson you probably think pioneer, first black in Major League Baseball, and Brooklyn Dodgers great. Odds are you were probably taught about Robinson at a young age because of the important historical impact he had on America’s past time. But there’s a name that really doesn’t get mentioned as much as it should, Larry Doby.
Doby was the second African American to play in Major League Baseball.
On April 15, 1947 Robinson played his very first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers and just three months later on July 5, 1947, Doby would play his first game with the Cleveland Indians. And just like that racial segregation was broken in both the American League and National League in a three month span. Both players would go on to have stellar careers, face racial prejudice, and win a World Series, but it was only Robinson who would have an extremely big impacting legacy.
Doby (like Robinson) put up with terrible treatment from fans, media, and even other players, sometimes even death threats. Doby once explained that he was spit on when sliding to second base. He explained that it was normal to be called just about every name in the book during games by hecklers just trying to get a rise out of him. Of course Robinson put up with similar treatment, but the media and fans didn’t follow nearly as much because Doby was known as “the second man,” and Robinson got the big publicity. This was partially due to the fact that Robinson was playing in New York City, the media capital of the world.
In Doby’s second season he would help the Cleveland Indians win a World Series. They would defeat the Boston Braves 4 games to two. Doby’s talents and popularity within the black community were showcased. In six world series games Doby would bat an outstanding .318 at the plate and hit a homerun in game three. It was obvious that Doby was having an impact on MLB, because attendance records were being broken, especially for black attendance during the Jim Crow era. Doby would record a hit in 5 out of six World Series games.
The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948.
Despite being heckled by fans and rejected by multiple teams, Doby continued to flourish on the field. Five times he had more than 100 RBIs, ten consecutive seasons Doby registered at least 100 hits, and twice he would hit more than 30 homeruns. Contempt with having far superior power numbers than Robinson, he did strike out a lot more. Doby would also lead the Indians to a second World Series appearance in 1954, but lost against the New York Giants.
Doby finished his brilliant career as a seven time all star, a World Series Champion, a two time American League home run champion, an RBI champ, and the first African American to play in the American League. The No. 14 is also retired from Indians franchise history.
It should also mentioned that Doby dedicated two years of his life to the United States Military, specifically the Navy. His entrance into MLB was not an easy one. He was separated from his Mother as a child and like many young black baseball players growing up, he had no choice but to play in a Negro League. He played for the Newark Eagles where he would win a championship. Despite being born and raised in South Carolina, he knew more equality and opportunities existed in the North.
Despite being known as “the second man” Doby and Robinson always had a great relationship. Doby even attended Robinson’s funeral in 1972.
Robinson retired from MLB in 1956 and his impact was felt immediately. Just six years later he would be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Doby on the other hand, would have to wait 29 years until his greatness and impact was finally recognized at Cooperstown. In 1966, he received 7 out of 302 (2.3%) of Hall of Fame Votes and in 1967 only 10 out of 292 (3.4%). A player must get at least 75% of votes. In 1998, the Veterans Committee had seen enough ignorance from past voters, and inducted Doby in. Extremely fortunate timing because Doby was 75 years old and would pass away just five years later from cancer.
“Kids are our future and we hope baseball has given them some idea of what it is to live together and how we can get along, whether you be black or white.“