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Blqack History Month: Larry Doby

Larry Doby (1923-2003) was the American League’s Jackie Robinson. As Robinson broke the color line in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Doby did the same in the American League with the Cleveland Indians.

Larry Doby( standing), along with Camden native Bernard Baruch, in bronze in front of the Camden Archives and Museum
photo by author

Doby was a native of Camden, S.C., but grew up in New Jersey. Originally wanting to teach and coach in high school, Doby was recruited by an umpire to play for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues in 1942. At first, Doby harbored no illusions about playing in the Major Leagues but that changed after Robinson signed a contract to play with the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn farm team, in 1946. When Robinson joined the Dodgers the following year, it was only a matter of time for other black ballplayers.

Doby became the first African-American to play in the American league 11 weeks after Robinson. Playing for the Indians from 1947-55, he also played for the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. He retired in 1959. A career .283 hitter, Doby was named to the All-Star team 7 times. He played in the 1948 World Series (the last time the Indians won), hitting a home run in game 4, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Veterans Committee.

After his playing career ended, Doby coached the Indians, White Sox, where he had a brief stint as manager in the 1970s, and Montreal Expos. He also worked for the Commissioner’s Office and as director of Community Relations for the NBAs New Jersey(now Brooklyn) Nets

Doby has not been forgotten by his home town. The Kershaw County Recreation Department maintains the Larry Doby Complex at 1400 Old River Road in Camden. Doby, along with another Camden native, Bernard Baruch,is memorialized in bronze in front of the Camden Archives and Museum. There is also a Larry Doby Field in Paterson, N.J. Doby died in 2003.

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