Monday, April 15 is a special day in Major League Baseball. It is a day when the entire league remembers the sacrifices made by former Brooklyn Dodgers player Jackie Robinson, who on April 15, 1947, broke the color barrier. Though his number “42” is retired league-wide, on April 15 everyone wears it for the day. While there is great respect and reverence that is given to Jackie Robinson, as there should be, there is a lack of respect and reverence given to former Indians OF Larry Doby.
Haven’t heard of Larry Doby? Unfortunately, that doesn’t surprise me!
Larry Doby was the second player to break the color barrier and the first to do it in the American League on July 5, 1947, a mere few months after Robinson. Many will comment, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” Which is typically an understandable response, but in this case, it is not…let me explain.
There was no interleague play back in 1947 and the cities that Robinson played in were not necessarily the same cities that Doby played in. Of course, cities with multiple teams like New York and Chicago got to see both of them, but Doby played in Detroit and Washington where Robinson did not. The vitriol that Doby got at those stadiums for the color of his skin was equal to what Robinson got. Even in the cities that they both played, they were in different stadiums and in front of different fans, so the hatred they faced was at full force throughout.
Robinson deserves the adulation that he gets as he was Rookie of the Year in 1947 and had an amazing career. However, Larry Doby was no slouch either! Doby played for the Indians for nine and a half seasons in his 13-year career. He was a seven-time All-Star and led the AL in home runs twice in his career. Doby was a member of the Indians 1948 World Series team and hit .318 with a home run and two RBI. Finally, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
We live in a time where racial epitaphs are still hurled at ballplayers. Indians OF Greg Allen had to deal with it last season and former Baltimore Orioles OF Adam Jones has dealt with it at points throughout his career. It is a horrible thing that occurs and maybe by honoring others, like Larry Doby, it can help educate people. At the very least, the Indians should all wear Doby’s #14 for a game during the season.
With this being a special year in Cleveland thanks to the All Star Game being played at Progressive Field, there should be something done to honor Larry Doby. He deserves our respect and it is a shame that he has been relegated to being mostly a footnote in baseball history.