In celebrating February’s Black History Month, I looked through my baseball card collection to find an ideal player to spotlight. I came upon Larry Doby, a man of many “firsts” in professional baseball. Larry Doby was a professional baseball player in both the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball. He played parts of 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, breaking the color barrier in the American League by signing with the Cleveland Indians some 3 months after Jackie Robinson’s historical signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Essentially, Doby was the first black player to play in the American League (the Dodgers played in the National League). And he was the first player to jump straight from the Negro Leagues to the professional rankings. He threw right and batted left, just like I did. And played the outfield. He was 24 years old at the time of his signing and already an established star in the Negro Leagues as well as a United States Military serviceman. Larry Doby was a World Series Champion, a 7 time All-Star, and a Major League baseball manager.
This baseball card is from 1956, the first year Doby played for the Chicago White Sox. I love the captions, the stats, the baseball lingo, and all the tradition this card has. Doby’s ability and class on and off the field propelled him to greatness as a player and a role model for others to follow. His character and dignity are evident by this quote he gave to the New York Times – “I was never bitter because I believed in the man upstairs. I continue to do my best. I let someone else be bitter. If I was bitter, I was only hurting me.” Click on the highlighted link to see the full article in the New York Times.
Larry Doby proves to me that you don’t always have to be first at something to be important, to make a difference, to believe in what is right, and carry yourself above negativity. The taunts, the threats, the acts of ignorant men and women who did not want baseball to be integrated were a daily reminder to Doby and others about race in America. He not only perserved, but shined as a baseball player, then executive in sports like baseball and basketball. Larry Doby was my clear choice as I look to educate and inform my children’s generation about the many, many outstanding figures whose sacrifices and bravery helped paved the way for others to success and excel. And why we recognize February as Black History Month.