U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and 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 American civil rights.
“Paterson’s own Larry Doby made lasting and significant contributions to sports and our society at a time when African-Americans were socially excluded, marginalized, and segregated,” said Booker. “It’s important that we honor this activist and athlete for both breaking barriers in professional baseball and his commitment to the greater cause of advancing equality and civil rights.”
“Larry Doby is not just a sports hero, but an American hero who overcame discrimination and hostility as a young man to lead Cleveland to victory and lead our country in the right direction,” said Brown, who displays in his Washington, D.C. front office a replica of the statue of Doby that stands at Progressive Field. “Doby and the 1947 Indians broke barriers, finally integrating all of professional baseball. Doby has seldom received the credit he deserves, and this bill offers a small way to honor all he did for civil rights and America’s game.”
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.