(Photo by The Stanley Weston Archive/Getty Images)
Hall of Fame center fielder and second baseman Larry Doby was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, which would have been his 100th birthday. Aside from his incredible accomplishments on the field, Doby was the first African-American to play in the American League while with the Cleveland Indians in 1947 and served in World War II.
Doby’s son, Larry Doby Jr., accepted the award on his father’s behalf at the National Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol.
“This means the world to my family, Doby Jr. told the crowd in Washington, D.C. “He’s normally recognized only for what he did on the field, but this kind of says he was a pretty good guy off the field. He helped advance his country and would be extremely proud and humbled by this honor.”
Similar to Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Doby faced harsh racism and discrimination after joining Major League Baseball. Before his MLB career began with Cleveland in 1947, Doby played three seasons from 1942-44 with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. He served in the military in 1945 and returned to the Eagles in 1946, hitting 10 triples and leading the league with a 186 OPS+. He made his MLB debut on July 5, 1947, against the Chicago White Sox.
Doby’s MLB debut was just three months after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, Robinson spent his first season in Major League Baseball with the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in 1946 before debuting with the big league club the following season. Conversely, Doby had his contract bought by the Cleveland Indians just two days before he made his debut.
Doby’s bravery and excellence, both on and off the field, are widely recognized by players and staff in MLB, including commissioner Rob Manfred.
“Larry Doby will forever be remembered as a pioneer who demonstrated great character and courage throughout his life,” Manfred said at the ceremony. “His legacy as a trailblazing player and manager endures to this day, and he will always remain one of the great heroes that our national pastime and nation have ever known.”
During his playing career, Doby played for the Newark Eagles in the Negro National League (1942-44, 1946-47), Cleveland Indians (1947-55,1958), Chicago White Sox (1956-57,1959), and Detroit Tigers (1959) in Major League Baseball, and the Chunichi Dragons (1962) in Nippon Professional Baseball.
In 17 seasons of professional baseball, Doby hit .286 with 283 home runs. He was a nine-time MLB all-star and a two-time World Series champion. The Veterans Committee selected him for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 for his outstanding career.
“To me, it’s not always about what you do on the field; it’s about how you affect people off the field, ” Doby Jr. said at the ceremony. “The fact that they’re honoring my father for that contribution is awesome.”
Larry Doby was 79 years old when he passed away in June 2003. His legacy will continue, and his incredible accomplishments on and off the diamond are a testament to why he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, an outstanding honor for an exceptional ballplayer and person.