Larry Doby Gets his Due with Congressional Gold Medal
Vince Guerrieri | On 19, Dec 2018
Larry Doby’s always had a hard row to hoe.
As an African-American man in the 20th century, he’s seen no shortage of racial prejudice. As the second black baseball player in the major leagues – and the first in the American League – he went through the same things the first African-American major leaguer, Jackie Robinson, did, but the recognition Robinson got eluded him for longer.
Robinson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Doby had to wait nearly 40 years for his due. Robinson’s number of 42 is retired not just by the Dodgers, but throughout all of Major League Baseball – even though he never played in the American League. Doby’s 14 hasn’t been similarly honored, and there hasn’t even been a groundswell of support of doing so like family and fans of Roberto Clemente have tried (unsuccessfully, thus far) to get his number 21 retired throughout baseball. It’s worth noting that Doby had never suggested any type of jealousy toward Robinson, and even served as one of his pallbearers.
For his trailblazing, Robinson has been the recipient of the two highest civilian honors bestowed by the government: A Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
A total of 582 presidential medals have been awarded, and the list includes quite a few baseball players, including Babe Ruth (who received the award posthumously this year from President Trump), Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. The Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded on far fewer occasions, to slightly more than 300 people, and the award rarely goes to athletes. Those that have received the Congressional Gold Medal include boxer Joe Louis, golfers Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Byron Nelson, Robinson – and now Larry Doby.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to award him one over the summer, and the Senate followed suit at the beginning of the month. President Trump officially signed it into law Monday.
Doby’s achievements in breaking the American League color line have been championed by Sherrod Brown (himself a passionate Indians fan) and Rob Portman, Ohio’s two senators, and Jim Renacci, a Wadsworth Republican in the U.S. House (and, ironically, a challenger to Brown in this year’s senate race). Doby also had supporters in New Jersey’s Congressional delegation. Doby was born in South Carolina, but grew up in New Jersey, and before he played for the Indians, he played for the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues.
According to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat, Doby’s family will accept the honor in the Capitol Rotunda next year.
Photo: OOTP Development