WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), along with U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH-16), introduced legislation to honor Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League, with the Congressional Gold Medal for his career and contributions to the American civil rights movement. In joining the American League, Doby effectively integrated all of professional baseball.
This year is the 70th Anniversary of Doby’s debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1947.
“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,” said Brown, who displays in his Washington, D.C. office a replica of the statue of Doby that stands at Progressive Field. “Doby’s heroism surpasses his remarkable skill – he overcame discrimination and hostility to break barriers, leading Cleveland to victory and moving our country in the right direction.”
“The game of baseball has a long and storied history in Ohio and Feller, Thome, Bench, Rose, and Larkin are household names throughout our state. No one person did more to change the game, however, than Larry Doby,” said Portman. “As the first African American player in the American League, Larry Doby broke down barriers with his remarkable skill and competitive spirit and forever changed the game of baseball. Through sheer determination, Doby became a symbol for the fight for equality in our country, and encouraged thousands of Ohioans and kids across our country to push the boundaries of what they thought possible. I join my colleagues in urging the Senate to honor the life and legacy of Larry Doby.”
“I am grateful for what Larry Doby did to the sport and our country and am pleased I could be a small part of remembering his legacy,” said Renacci.
“The Cleveland Indians organization is very proud of Larry Doby’s legacy,” said Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Bob DiBiasio. “Mr. Doby, a symbol of equality and freedom of opportunity, stood with grace, dignity and a competitive spirit that resonated throughout Ohio and across America.”
Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby joined the Cleveland Indians in July 1947, becoming the first African-American to play in the American League. During his 13-year career in the American League, Doby tallied 1,533 games, batting .283, with 253 home runs and 970 runs batted in. He played in two World Series, leading the 1948 Cleveland Indians to a World Championship over the Boston Braves. He was the first African-American player to hit a home run in a World Series game, led the American League in home runs twice, and was voted to seven All-Star teams.
In 1978, the Chicago White Sox hired Doby as their manager and he became the second African-American manager in Major League history. He later served as Director of Community Relations for the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association. He was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2013.
Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina in 1923 and moved to Paterson, New Jersey in 1938, where he became a standout athlete at Paterson Eastside High School. He attended Long Island University on a basketball scholarship before enlisting in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was discharged in 1946 and went on to play baseball in the Negro National League for the Newark Eagles. Doby passed away in 2003.
Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum support the bill.