This story was published by Gordon Cobbledick, sports editor, in his regular column titled, “Plain Dealing,” on May 13, 1948.
A couple of weeks ago this column commended Paul Brown and Bill Veeck for their contributions to the cause of better race relations in Cleveland. The next day’s post brought a letter that read, in part, as follows:
“Just a few words concerning your asinine remarks in your column today about ‘breaking down racial barriers.’ You mention the 73,000 people at the ball game cheering (Larry) Doby. I was there and from my seat I could observe several who were not cheering, so you’re a little wet on that statement.
“The first one to sign a Negro player was (Branch) Rickey, the hypocrite, who abhors playing ball on Sundays, but never fails to count the receipts the next day. It was a monetary gesture on his part, as well as on the part of Veeck and Brown.
“The one bad feature about the whole thing is that when white players sign a contract they are bound to that contract no matter how many colored ones are signed, and they are stuck. There is plenty of hard feelings on the Cleveland and Brooklyn teams, but you are not allowed to print that.
“I don’t doubt that Veeck received many letters and calls about signing a colored player, but he should worry. For every five white people that stay away from the games there will be 25 colored, half-drunk and impudent, and those are the 73,000 who cheered Doby. So what has Veeck to lose? He is taking in the money, and that’s all he cares about.”
Veeck Sends Reply From Room in Clinic
The other day Veeck dispatched a reply from his room at the Cleveland Clinic—assuming, perhaps naively that the name and address signed to the letter were true. He wrote:
“Your letter, addressed to Mr. Cobbledick has been referred to the writer. Naturally I am not very hopeful that you will accept or even pay any real attention to my answer. However, I would be delinquent in my duty to the ball club and myself if I did not try to make plain my position in so far as it concerns race prejudice in general and Larry Doby in particular.
“The Indian management is interested primarily in one thing: winning a pennant. In order to achieve this aim, it was obvious that we needed to improve the ball club that represented Cleveland in 1946. We needed better players than we were putting on the field.
“Our scouts scoured the country during the latter part of 1946 and all of 1947. They asked me before setting out if I cared as to color or race. My reply was the pigment of one’s skin or the method in which one worshipped had nothing to do with his ability as a player. We signed Doby, a colored boy, and several Mexicans only because they are or in our estimation will be good ball players.
“Doby we brought to Cleveland because we felt he was nearer to being a major leaguer than any other players available. As a matter of fact, I felt that we would lose attendance by this move, as I knew racial prejudice was as high in Cleveland as anywhere else. There is no substitute for winning games, no attraction that will replace a good ball club. That is our reason for having Doby. He has a chance to become an outstanding player. Neither you nor anyone else has a right to deprive him of his opportunity.
“Whether one chooses to associate with him off the field is a matter for his or her conscience, but I can assure you—and I feel I know as much about it, certainly, as do you—that there is no dissension on our club because of Doby. Our players are willing to do what you won’t or can’t do, namely consider Doby as a ball player, not a color problem.
“I might mention, although you’ll undoubtedly not believe me, that in the park the deportment of the colored has been no different from that of the white fans.
“I don’t believe this lecture will convince you of anything, for intolerance is, in some cases, almost a disease. Just ponder a minute, however, that it was none of your choosing that you are whatever color you may be.
“Yours very truly, Bill Veeck”
Photo: AP Photo