The United States Postal Service has announced that Larry Doby, the first black man to play baseball in the American League, and the second player behind Jackie Robinson to play Major League Baseball, will be honored with a stamp as one of four Major League Baseball All-Stars who left “an indelible impression on the game.” A Joe DiMaggio stamp was the first to be unveiled. Two other players will be announced at a later date.
Larry Doby (1923-2003) was the first African American to play on an American League baseball team, joining the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947. For integrating the league just 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League, Doby deserves recognition as a civil rights pioneer. A man of quiet dignity and courage who endured isolation, discrimination, and countless indignities, Doby helped pave the way for racial progress in America’s national pastime.
Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina, and raised there mainly by his maternal grandmother while his mother made a living as a domestic worker in Paterson, New Jersey. He eventually joined his mother in Paterson and attended Eastside High School, where he earned 11 varsity letters in several different sports. Just before graduating from high school, he began his professional baseball career with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. After serving in the U.S. Navy as a physical training instructor during World War II, Doby returned to the Eagles in 1946. That year he helped them defeat Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro World Series championship. The following year he was batting well 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 most of his first season on the bench. But in 1948 Doby hit .301 for the season and helped Cleveland win the pennant. During game four 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 next year Doby was elected 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 center fielder in baseball, ahead of Joe DiMaggio. Doby 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 of 164 consecutive errorless games.
When his playing days were over, Doby coached for the Montreal Expos, the Cleveland Indians, and the Chicago White Sox. In 1978, he was hired as manager of the White Sox, making him the second African American to manage a Major League Baseball team.
Doby was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. He died of cancer on June 18, 2003, in Montclair, New Jersey.