Ohio Congress Representatives Seek Recognition for Doby
Vince Guerrieri | On 12, Apr 2017
If Congressional representatives in Ohio, South Carolina, and New Jersey – among other states – get their way, Larry Doby could soon be in some select company.
Ohio’s senators – Democrat Sherrod Brown, an avowed Indians fan, and Republican Rob Portman – have introduced legislation to make Doby the latest recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) has proposed the same bill in the House.
The medal is the legislative branch’s equivalent of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but awarded far less frequently – and rarer still to athletes. The only baseball players to win one previously were Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson. Other athletes who received one were Jesse Owens, golfer Byron Nelson and Joe Louis. A Presidential Medal of Freedom is given out by the president at his discretion, but a Congressional Gold Medal must be co-sponsored by at least two-thirds of each house of Congress (that’s 290 in the House and 67 Senators). The bill honoring Doby, which was introduced last week, currently has 115 co-sponsors in the House, and five in the Senate – in addition to Brown and Portman, the co-sponsors come from Doby’s birth state of South Carolina, and New Jersey, where he lived for most of his life as well as played for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues.
A similar bill was introduced last year, and although it got enough sponsors in the House, it languished in the Senate. In 1987 – while Doby was still alive – Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey also sought to award him and Jackie Robinson a Congressional Gold Medal. That bill didn’t get enough co-sponsors in the Senate.
Doby, the first African-American player in the American League and second overall, has always suffered from the lack of recognition afforded Jackie Robinson, who integrated the major leagues 10 weeks before Doby made his first appearance with the Indians in 1947. (Robinson was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 2005, as well as a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984).
“Larry Doby seldom receives credit for his role in integrating all of professional baseball and it’s past time to honor his contributions to both civil rights and America’s game,” Brown said in a statement announcing the legislation.