Larry Doby is recognized by the Foundation for the efforts he made to help break the color barrier in the major leagues and the sacrifices he made in the United States Navy during World War II.
Raised in Camden, South Carolina, he was a four-sport athlete in high school, where he lettered in baseball, basketball, football, and track, and later accepted a basketball scholarship from Long Island University.
In 1942, Doby, at the young age of 17, began his professional baseball career with the Newark Eagles and won the Negro National League batting title as their second baseman.
After winning the title, he postponed his career and joined the United States Navy in 1943. He was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois and played with the Negro baseball team.
Following training, Doby was sent to Camp Roberts, CA, Treasure Island, and San Diego. He was then sent to Ulithi Atoll in the Pacific, a major U. S. Naval staging area in the final year of the war, before being honorably discharged.
Larry returned to baseball in 1946 and rejoined the Newark Eagles batting .360, which contributed to the Eagles winning the Negro League World Series. After returning with the Eagles, he made the transition to the major leagues the following summer and became the first African-American to play in the American League. He signed with Bill Veek’s Cleveland Indians, months after Jackie Robinson made history by becoming the first with the Brooklyn Dodgers, helping to break the color barrier in baseball. He was also the first African-American to play in the American Basketball League, a precursor to the National Basketball Association, playing for the Patterson Panthers.
Doby became a seven-time All-Star as a centerfielder with the Indians, and, in 1948, he played a key role in their win against the Boston Braves, capturing the World Series title. In 1954, he helped the Indians win the American League pennant after they won 111 games. He finished second that year in the Most Valuable Player voting, after leading the league in home runs and runs batted in. He went on to play for the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, and became one of the first former major leaguers, along with Don Newcombe, to play for a professional Japanese baseball team when he signed with the Chunichi Dragons before his retirement as a player in 1962.
In 1978, Doby became the manager of the White Sox, making him the second African-American to manage in the major leagues. He then became the Director of Community Affairs and Communications with the New Jersey Nets of the NBA in the 1980s. In 1995, he was appointed to a position in the American League’s executive office. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Veterans Committee. On December 17, 2018, he received the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his achievements and contributions to American Major Leagues athletics, civil rights, and the Armed Forces during WWII.
As the New York Times wrote, “In glorifying those who are first, the second is often forgotten…Larry Doby integrated all those American League ball parks where Jackie Robinson never appeared. And he did it with class and clout.“