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Larry Doby

Lawrence Eugene Doby
Born: Dec. 13, 1923 in Camden, S.C. 
Died: June 18, 2003 in Montclair, N.J.
Debut: 1947 | Pos: OF
Ht: 6’1″ | Wt: 182 | B: L | T: R

13 1,533 5,348 960 1,515 253 970 47 .283

>> Visit the Larry Doby biography on Baseball Almanac for complete statistics.

Larry Doby, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame and the first black player in the American League, died on June 18, 2003 in Montclair, N.J. after a long illness. He was 79.

Doby, a seven-time All-Star, hit .283 with 253 home runs and 969 RBI in his 13-year career in the major leagues. He joined the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“It was tough on him,” said Bob Feller, a Hall of Famer and teammate of Doby with the Cleveland Indians. “Larry was very sensitive, more so than (Jackie) Robinson or Satchel Paige or Luke Easter or some of the other players who came over from the Negro Leagues. He was completely different from Jackie as a player. He was aggressive, but not like Jackie was.”

Doby played in just 29 games that first season and collected 5 hits in 32 at-bats. The next season, he began to make his mark, hitting .301 with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs.

Robinson and Doby took their roles of being baseball pioneers very seriously. In the “Autobiography of Baseball,” Doby talks about how he would call talk to Robinson and discuss the issues the two were facing.

“Jackie and I talked often… maybe we kept each other from giving up,” he was quoted as saying in a Los Angeles Times article in 1974.

“The only difference [was] that Jackie Robinson got all of the publicity,” Doby was quoted as saying. “You didn’t hear much about what I was going through because the media didn’t want to repeat the same story. I couldn’t react to (prejudicial) situations from a physical standpoint. My reaction was to hit the ball as far as I could.”

Bill Veeck offered some advice to Doby when he took over the Cleveland Indians ownership.

“He sat me down and told me some of the do’s and don’ts,” Doby was quoted as saying in an AP article. “No arguing with umpires. Don’t even turn around at a bad call at the plate and no dissertations with opposing players — either of those might start a race riot.”

Doby was signed by the Indians when he was 22 years old and two years later he hit a home run in Game 4 of the World Series. He hit .318 in that series and reports say to 10,000 greeted him — both white and black — when he returned to Patterson, N.J., after the season.

He led the American League in home runs in 1952 and 1954, hitting 32 in each season. In 1954, he led the league with 126 RBI.

In 1949, he joined Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe as baseball’s first black All-Stars. He played in six straight All-Star games.

Born in Camden, S.C., Doby lost his father when he was just 8 years old. His family moved to Patterson, New Jersey, when he was in his teens.

He joined the Newark Eagles of the Negro League and played under the name of Larry Walker to protect his amateur status. According to AP reports, his first game came at Yankee Stadium.

Doby was born in Camden, S.C., the son of a semipro baseball player who died when Doby was 8. He moved with his family to Paterson in his teens.

In 1942, at 17, he joined the Eagles, playing under the name of Larry Walker to protect his amateur status — and playing his first pro game at Yankee Stadium.

In 1978, he became baseball’s second black manager — following the lead of Frank Robinson. He also was a coach and worked in the front office with the White Sox, Indians and Expos. He ended his career in baseball working for the commissioner’s office.

Doby ended his major league career in 1959 with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. He played briefly in Japan and he later coached with the White Sox, Indians and Expos. In 1978, he became the second black manager in the major leagues (following Frank Robinson).

He also worked for the commissioner’s office and he worked with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets as director of community relations.

Doby and his wife, Helyn, had five children. She died of cancer in 2001.

“After you look back at the progress that’s been made and the minorities involved in baseball, you can’t think about the bad things that happened to you in ’47,” Doby said. “It was all worth it. Baseball has come a long way. If I had something to do with it, I’m proud. My only hope is that this whole world would have come as far as baseball.” – Doby, speaking in a Houston Chronicle article

On July 3, 1994, his No. 14 was retired by the Indians — 47 years after he broke the color barrier.

Sources: Historic Baseball & AP obituary.