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Black History Month: Stamped into history

Larry Doby stamp to debut in July

Posted: January 31, 2012 4:55 p.m.
Updated: February 1, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Camden native Larry Doby left his stamp on America’s landscape, the first African American to play in the American League and the only South Carolinian to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Come July, the legacy of this trail-blazer will be imprinted on generations today and those to come when the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) releases the “Major League Baseball All-Stars” stamps. These stamps will honor four Hall of Famers -- Doby, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Stargell and Ted Williams -- who, according to the USPO, “capture our imagination for their exploits and for what they symbolize -- the best of baseball -- and, in a way, the best of ourselves.”

Doby was born to Etta and David Doby on Dec. 13, 1923, in Camden. He lived on Market Street and attended Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy. Although he moved to Paterson, N.J., while still a youth and lived in Montclair, N.J., at the time of his death in 2003, Doby always considered Camden home.

Doby's rise began in Paterson, where he was a star athlete at the Eastside High School. He tried out at 18 for the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League and played with the team for two seasons. He served in the U.S. Navy as a physical training instructor during World War II, returning to the Eagles in 1946.

A year later, Doby broke the race barrier, playing his first game for the Cleveland Indians in July 1947 and becoming the first black player in the American League.

A lifetime .283 hitter, Doby belted 253 home runs in his playing career. He led the American League in round trippers with 32 in both 1952 and 1954. He also had a league-best 132 runs batted in for the 1954 American League champion Indians.

He was the first black player to play for a World Series champion in helping the Indians to the title in 1948. He also slammed a home run in that year’s fall classic while batting at a .318 clip as Cleveland defeated the Boston Braves four games to two.

Doby played 13 seasons in his American League career, most of those spent in Cleveland along with stops with the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. He became the second African American major league manager in 1978, when he took charge of the Chicago White Sox.

New Jersey sports writer Jerry Izenberg led the drive to get Doby included in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Izenberg said many baseball fans don’t understand the road Doby was forced to travel in the American League. For three years, he was the only black player in the circuit.

In July 1998, Doby was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. At the podium during the ceremony, he quickly made it clear: “I was born in a little town in South Carolina called Camden.”

Doby helped pave the way for racial progress through his role in baseball, facing “prejudice with dignity and courage,” the USPS said when announcing the future release of the “Major League Baseball All-Stars” stamps. The stamps, whose artwork is based on historic photographs of each player, will be issued as Forever stamps, which are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce rate.


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