The following is a guest submission to League of Fans from Gerry Chidiac, a high school teacher and freelance sportswriter with over 30 years of experience in Canada, the United States and Africa.
It’s unfortunate that we often forget the people who come second.
Jackie Robinson is rightly honored as the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. Today, all players wear number 42 on April 15, the day that Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.
We often forget that Robinson, who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League, was followed on July 5 by Larry Doby, who broke the color barrier in the American League with Cleveland.
Though Robinson drew more media attention, both players suffered the same abuse from racist fans, players and coaches, and both showed heroic strength in paving the way for baseball to finally judge players by their talent and character, not by the color of their skin.
I’ll admit that as an avid baseball fan, I wasn’t aware that when my beloved Toronto Blue Jays played their inaugural game against the Chicago White Sox in 1977, the batting coach of their opponent was none other than the man who had broken the color barrier in the American League.
I was also not aware that in 1978, Doby became the second African-American manager in Major League Baseball when he took over the White Sox part-way through the season.
In fact, it was not until 2007, when I was visiting relatives in Paterson, N.J., that I became aware of Doby and his accomplishments. My Aunt Mary proudly took us to Larry Doby Field and showed us the statue erected in his honor.
Though he was born in South Carolina, Doby’s family moved to Paterson, where Larry was a star in multiple sports at Eastside High School. Aunt Mary proudly told me that Doby had gone to school with her late husband. When I asked if they knew each other she said, “Well, Larry Doby played a lot of sports and Uncle Frank played in the band.”
After visiting Eastside Park, I began to research Doby and I was inspired by his greatness.
Doby was an all-star in the Negro Leagues. His Newark Eagles won the Negro World Series in 1946 and, unlike Robinson, he went directly from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues in 1947 without playing a single game in the minors. In 1948, he won the Major League World Series with Cleveland, the last time Cleveland accomplished this goal.
Doby was a six-time Major League all-star, led the league in home runs twice and had five consecutive seasons with over 100 runs batted in. After his playing days ended, he had a successful career as a coach with the Montreal Expos, Cleveland and the White Sox.
Outside of baseball, Doby also displayed greatness. He and his wife Helyn were married for 55 years and had five children together. Watching his induction speech into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, it was quite moving to see him recognize Bill Veeck, the owner who not only gave him the opportunity to play for Cleveland in 1947 but to manage for the White Sox in 1978.
On another occasion, Doby said:
“I was never bitter because I believed in the man upstairs. … I prefer to remember Bill Veeck … and the good guys. There’s no point in talking about the others.”
When he died in 2003, American President George W. Bush said:
“Larry Doby was a good and honorable man, a tremendous athlete and manager. He had a profound influence on the game of baseball.”
Cleveland has retired his number 14, erected a statue and named a street near their stadium in his honor.
This year for Jackie Robinson Day, Toronto Blue Jay Curtis Granderson wore one shoe with Robinson’s number and picture on it, and the other with Doby’s. It won’t be surprising to see other players make similar tributes in the future.
Greatness is all around us. Sometimes we just need to look beyond the headlines and take notice.
— Gerry Chidiac is a columnist for Troy Media. For more of Gerry’s work, go to gerrychidiac.com
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon