President Trump signed into law (on Dec. 18) U.S. Senators Portman and Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) bill honoring 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. Last week, the bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent. In joining the American League, Doby effectively integrated all of professional baseball. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) was the author of the House version of the bill and led efforts to pass it in that chamber.
“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,” said Portman. “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’d like to thank my colleagues in the Senate for their work to make this happen and especially my colleague Jim Renacci for his leadership to get this bill done in the House.”
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.
Information for this story was provided by Sen. Portman’s office.