Larry Doby was the second black baseball player to wear a major league uniform and the first in the American League. He joined the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, just a few months after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier.
Doby's story is less known, but just as significant as Robinson's. Doby was a talented outfielder who made six straight All-Star appearances. In his major league career, which lasted through 1959, he had a .283 batting average with 253 home runs and 970 RBIs.
Doby hit at least 20 home runs in eight straight years, in an era when home runs were not as common as they are now.
Doby was born in Camden, S.C., but moved to New Jersey in his teens. He became a local star athlete in football and baseball in Paterson, Passiac County before starting his Negro League career at age 17. Doby began playing for the Newark Eagles in 1942 at historic Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson.
Doby starred as a second baseman for the Eagles. His career was interrupted for two years for service in the Navy, but Doby rejoined the Eagles in 1946. It was then that he and teammate Monte Irvin led the Eagles to their first and only Negro League World Series.
The Eagles beat the Kansas City Monarchs 4-3 in the best-of-seven series for the championship. The next year, Indians owner Bill Veeck made him a contract offer, and Doby headed for Cleveland.
Two years after he took Newark to the title, Doby helped the Indians win the World Series. He became the first black player to hit a home run in the World Series during game four of the Fall Classic against the Boston Braves. Cleveland won the series 4-2 in 1948, and has not won again since.
Doby broke another color barrier in 1947 when he became a two-sport athlete as the first black player in the American Basketball League, a predecessor of the NBA. He was a member of the Paterson Panthers.
Doby threw out the first pitch at the 1997 Major League Baseball All-Star game. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Doby died June 18, 2003, in Montclair at the age of 79. The Indians celebrated the 60th anniversary of Doby's entrance into the majors in August 2007. Each player wore his number 14 on their jerseys.
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