Teams: Newark Eagles, 1942-1943, 1946-1947; Cleveland Indians, 1947-1955; 1958; Chicago White Sox, 1956-1957, 1959; Detroit Tigers, 1959
In 1947, Larry Doby became the first
African American to play in
the American League.
Born Lawrence Eugene Doby in 1924 in Camden, South Carolina, Larry came from good stock: His father had been a semipro ballplayer. Dad died when Larry was just eight, however, and the family moved to New Jersey. A three-sport all-stater in high school, Doby reached the Negro Leagues at age 17 under an assumed name while he was attending Long Island University.
After two years of military service, Doby became a star for the Newark Eagles in 1946, batting .341 as their second sacker and finishing just a single home run behind Josh Gibson and Johnny Davis for league leadership. He was batting .414 in August 1947 when Bill Veeck signed him to join the Cleveland Indians. He thus became the first African American in the American League, just four months behind Jackie Robinson in the National League.
Doby became the Indians’ center fielder for the next season, and he stayed there powerfully for the next eight years. He led the American League in RBI, runs, on-base average, and slugging percentage once each during that time, and twice (in 1952 and ’54) he topped all junior-circuit sluggers with 32 home runs.
Doby was a vital member of the Indians’ pennant winners in 1948 and ’54. In the ’48 World Series, he socked a game-winning homer off Johnny Sain in Game 4. In the latter season, he garnered two legs of the Triple Crown with 32 homers and 126 RBI. He was named to seven consecutive All-Star teams.
Doby received as much verbal abuse and physical threatening as the AL’s black pioneer as Robinson had in the NL. The difference was that few ever heard about what Doby went through, because, as Larry himself put it, “The media didn’t want to repeat the same story.” Unlike the fiery Robinson, Doby stayed cool and let his lumber do the talking. “My way to react to prejudice was to hit the ball as far as I could,” he said.
After his playing career (including a season in Japan) ended, Doby served as a coach for Montreal, Cleveland, and the Chicago White Sox. He replaced Bob Lemon as White Sox manager in 1978, thereby becoming the second African American (after Frank Robinson) to serve as a major-league manager. Doby was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Here are Larry Doby's major league totals:
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