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Larry Doby exhibit to open at archives Monday

New postage stamp to be unveiled here July 26

Posted: June 28, 2012 4:36 p.m.
Updated: June 29, 2012 5:00 a.m.

A stamp featuring the likeness of Camden native and Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby will be officially unveiled by the United States Postal Service July 20 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Doby, along with fellow Hall of Fame members Joe DiMaggio, Willie Stargell and Ted Williams, are included in the set. The Doby stamp will be unveiled in Camden at a ceremony at the Archives on Thursday, July 26.

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Larry Doby was never one who craved the spotlight whether on the baseball field or, in his day-to-day life.

So, if he were alive today, the Camden native and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame would probably shrug his shoulders and wonder why all this fuss was being made over him.

Beginning on Monday and continuing through December 31 of this year, the Camden Archives and Museum will present an exhibit showcasing the life and career of the player who, on July 5, 1947, broke the American League’s color barrier when he played his first game for the Cleveland Indians.

The six-month showcase in his hometown is one of many events centering around Doby’s life and vast achievements which will take place in Camden; Charleston; Cooperstown, N.Y.; and various other places where kids and grown men play the game of baseball.

On Friday, July 20, as part of the opening day festivities for Hall of Fame weekend at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., the United States Post Office will unveil the Major League Baseball All-Stars First Class Forever stamps depicting Doby along with Hall of Fame colleagues Joe DiMaggio, Willie Stargell and Ted Williams.

Six days later, the Camden Archives will be turned into a miniature Field of Dreams when the stamps will be unveiled in a gala ceremony which will feature former New York Yankees’ second baseman and 1961 World Series Most Valuable Player Bobby Richardson as the keynote speaker for the 11 a.m. event. A reception, complete with ballpark fare, will follow the ceremony on the grounds of the museum.

As for the exhibit itself, nearly all the items are on loan from the collection of Camden’s Davie Beard. Visitors to the exhibit will also get a sneak-peak as to the Larry Doby sculpture, being created by Camden artist Maria Kirby-Smith, which along with that of Bernard Baruch, will adorn the grounds of the Camden Archives.

The exhibit will be housed in the facility’s Frank Whitely Room. On Wednesday, Camden Archives and Museum Assistant Director Katherine Richardson gave the Chronicle-Independent a chance to see some of the articles which will be on display come Monday. The windows in the room are each covered with a different photo of Doby in various stages of his baseball career.

In the cellar of the building are various magazines and newspaper articles on Doby. On another table sits commercial posters of Doby promoting a product. A quick glance to yet another table, one sees four baseball bats adorned with Doby’s signature. A Doby figurine, plaques and a signed baseball are all propped up next to each other, ready to take their place as part of the exhibit.

On Sunday, July 8, Dr. Joseph Thomas Moore, author of Pride Against Prejudice, which was updated and published this year as Larry Doby: The Struggle of the American League’s First Black Player, will present a program on Doby’s life at 3 p.m. at the Robert Mills Courthouse in Camden.

The first edition of the Doby biography won the Carter G. Woodson Award for Excellence and has been named as one of the 10 best sports biographies ever written. Pride and Prejudice became the basis of a 90-minute film of the same title which has been a favorite on Showtime since 2007.

Copies of the new book and a book signing will follow the program.

The following weekend, the Larry Doby celebrations spread to Charleston for the two-day Larry Doby Heritage Weekend at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, home of the Charleston RiverDogs, the New York Yankees’ affiliate in the class A South Atlantic League.

The president of the RiverDogs is Mike Veeck, son of Bill Veeck, who in 1947 as owner of the Cleveland Indians signed Larry Doby to his first MLB contract.

Larry Doby Day with the RiverDogs will be celebrated on Saturday, July 14 when the Doby stamp will be unveiled prior to that evening’s game with the Asheville Tourists. In addition, the first 1,000 fans entering the park that night will be given Negro League Jerseys. Before signing with the Indians, Doby was a member of the Newark Eagles of the Negro League.

On Sunday, July 15, the RiverDogs will celebrate Negro League Baseball Day with players representing the New York Black Yankees, Birmingham Black Barons and Indianapolis Clowns on hand to meet and speak with fans while signing autographs.

RiverDog officials report that Larry Doby Day Heritage Weekend is well on pace to being a two-day sellout after having drawn 10,752 for last year’s two-day event.

It was Veeck who, on April 14, 2007, served as the keynote speaker for the dedication of the Larry Doby Athletic Complex in Camden. His speech was intertwined with stories of his father and Doby. But when it came time to talk about what Doby meant to him, Veeck painted with a wide brush.

“This is a man who changed not only the face of baseball,” Veeck said on that sun-splashed morning, “but of history.

“I loved Larry. I love his family. Most of all, I loved what he meant to my father and their relationship.”

Doby, who passed away at his home in Montclair, N.J., on June 18, 2003, was born in Camden in 1923 and lived with his family on Market Street in a house which has since been torn down. He attended Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy in Camden before moving to Paterson, N.J. He always, however, made sure that people knew he was from Camden. He never forgot his roots.

When he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26, 1998, one of the first things Doby said in his speech included his hometown.

“I was born in a little town in South Carolina called Camden,” he said in speaking before a gathering of thousands of baseball fans in the upstate New York hamlet. “A lot of people there had a lot to do with my success.”

Among those who helped shape Doby’s career was Camden’s Richard DuBose, who took an interest in Doby and helped teach him the game.

Doby’s original plan was to be a high school teacher and coach. Those plans took a detour in 1942 when a Negro League umpire saw Doby playing high school baseball in New Jersey and told the owner of the Newark Eagles about the young infield. After a tryout, Doby made the team and became the Eagles’ starting second baseman. Before long, he was named to the Negro League All-Star team.

Five years later, Doby met with Bill Veeck, who signed the 23-year-old to a contract with the Cleveland Indians. He made his Major League debut some 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Unlike Robinson, who came up through the Dodgers’ system and was sent to Montreal in 1946, Doby did not have players helping him along as did Robinson in Brooklyn with the likes of Pee Wee Reese and Ralph Branca. He was on his own, save for Veeck, in Cleveland.

In an interview with the Chronicle-Independent in July of 1998, Hall of Fame member Hank Aaron said there was no difference between Doby and Robinson. He said had it not been for them, he would not have been able to have broken Babe Ruth’s former home run record of 714.

“But Larry not only had to be a good ballplayer,” Aaron said, “he had to be a good citizen, too. He had to giggle and grin at people who you knew didn’t want you to do good.”

Doby played in the Major Leagues for 13 seasons, eight of those with the Indians along with stints with the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. In that time, he helped the Indians to their most recent World Series title in 1948. In that series, he hit a home run in game four as he became the first African-American to homer in the fall classic.

A seven-time All-Star, Doby led the American League with 32 home runs in 1952 and again, with 32 in 1954. Over the course of his career, he belted 253 home runs, drove in 969 runs and scored 960 runs in a career in which he had eight consecutive 20-home run seasons.

In 1978, Doby became the second African-American manager in baseball when he took over the reins to the Chicago White Sox.

The Camden Museum and Archives is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the first Sunday of the month from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information about the museum and the Larry Doby exhibit, call the archives at 425-6050.


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