Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #14 Larry Doby
Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the career of Larry Doby.
By Vince Guerrieri
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black player in the major leagues. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, the Dodgers retired his number in 1972, about six months before his death.
On July 5, 1947, Larry Doby took the field for the Indians as the second black player in the major leagues, and first in the American League. The junior circuit was slower to integrate than the National League, and it could be argued that it fell behind in the 1960s because of it. Slower still were people to recognize Doby’s accomplishments. His number was retired by the Indians in 1994, and by the time Doby was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, Jackie Robinson’s number 42 was retired throughout the major leagues.
Larry Doby was a Hall of Fame center fielder for the Indians, patrolling the vast expanses of grass at Municipal Stadium from 1947 until he was traded to the White Sox after the 1955 season. Doby later made a return appearance in Cleveland in 1958.
Prior to being signed by Cleveland, Doby played for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues. When Bill Veeck signed Doby in 1947, he was batting a blistering .414 for the defending World Champions. Two days later, he was in the Tribe lineup.
Doby was part of the Indians’ 1948 World Champion team, hitting .301 with 14 home runs and leading the team with a .318 batting average in the World Series against the Braves. In 1954, the Tribe won the pennant with Doby hitting .272 and leading the league with 32 home runs, tying Earl Averill’s club record for home runs by a center fielder, a mark that has also been reached by Grady Sizemore.
He was named to seven straight American League all-star teams from 1949 to 1955, and retired after the 1958 season with a .283 batting average.
Doby went on to become the second black manager in the majors. He was on the Indians coaching staff in the 1970s, but was passed over to become the first black manager for another Robinson – Frank, in 1975. Doby managed for Bill Veeck for the White Sox. He died in 2003.
Photo: United States Post Office