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Bill honoring Larry Doby being introduced in Washington

Lawmakers seeking to award the Congressional Gold Medal to late Camden native, Hall of Famer

Posted: April 10, 2017 2:47 p.m.
Updated: April 11, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

LARRY DOBY ADDRESSES the crowd at the courthouse steps as part of “Larry Doby Day” festivities in his hometown of Camden in 1997.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill has been introduced to honor Camden native and 1998 National Baseball Hall of Fame enshrinee Larry Doby, who on July 5, 1947 broke the American League’s color barrier by playing for the Cleveland Indians, with the Congressional Gold Medal.

U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), along with U.S. Reps. Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-9), introduced legislation to honor Doby with the Congressional Gold Medal for his career and contributions to the American civil rights movement. In joining the American League, Doby effectively integrated all of professional baseball. This year is the 70th Anniversary of Doby’s debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1947.

Born in Camden in 1923, Doby lived on Market Street during his developmental years before moving to Paterson, N.J., in 1938, where he became a standout athlete at Paterson Eastside High School. While having moved to New Jersey, Doby never let people forget where he was born and raised.

“I‘m from a little town in South Carolina called Camden,” Doby said in opening his speech at his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in July 1998.

Doby attended Long Island University on a basketball scholarship before enlisting in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was discharged in 1946 and went on to play baseball in the Negro National League for the Newark Eagles. 

Doby passed away in 2003.

Doby joined the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947 for that day’s doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox, becoming the first African-American to play in the American League. During his 13-year career in the American League, Doby tallied 1,533 games, batting .283, with 253 home runs and 970 runs batted in. He played in two World Series, leading the 1948 Cleveland Indians to a World Championship over the Boston Braves. He was the first African-American player to hit a home run in a World Series game, led the American League in home runs twice and was voted to seven All-Star teams.

In 1978, the Chicago White Sox hired Doby as their manager and he became the second African-American manager in Major League history. He later served as Director of Community Relations for the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association. He was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2013.

In Camden, Larry Doby Park, a facility which includes baseball, softball and soccer fields, were dedicated in Doby’s memory while signs welcoming visitors into Camden bear the words, “Birthplace of  Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby” were erected in 2002.

In 2012, the United States Postal Service honored Doby with a stamp bearing his likeness while, eight months later in Camden, a statue of Doby in his Indians’ uniform --- crafted by Camden artist Maria Kirby-Smith --- stands next to a statue of the late Camden native and financier, Bernard Baruch, in a sculpture title, “Reconciliation” which welcomes visitors to the Camden Archives and Museum.

“Being the ‘first’ to break through barriers is often a responsibility that is met with enormous sacrifice and perseverance,” said Senator Scott. “These are individuals who risk it all to pave a different, brighter future for countless generations, and why trailblazers like South Carolina native Larry Doby deserve to be recognized for taking the first step that has opened the door to so many. Doby’s contribution to Major League Baseball, the Civil Rights movement, and his service to our nation will forever be etched in our country’s history.”

“Larry Doby seldom receives credit for his role in integrating all of professional baseball and it’s past time to honor his contributions to both civil rights and America’s game,” said Senator Brown, who displays in his Washington, D.C. office a replica of the statue of Doby that stands at Progressive Field. “Doby’s heroism surpasses his remarkable skill – he overcame discrimination and hostility to break barriers, leading Cleveland to victory and moving our country in the right direction.”

“As the first player to integrate the American League, Larry Doby played an instrumental role in our country’s civil rights movement,” said Senator Booker. “His perseverance through adversity inspired a generation and made a lasting impact on American history. And long after his baseball career was over, he continued to serve his community in New Jersey. The Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting recognition for an individual who helped change our national pastime and our country for the better.”

“The game of baseball has a long and storied history in Ohio and Feller, Thome, Bench, Rose, and Larkin are household names throughout our state. No one person did more to change the game, however, than Larry Doby,” said Senator Portman. “As the first African American player in the American League, Larry Doby broke down barriers with his remarkable skill and competitive spirit and forever changed the game of baseball. Through sheer determination, Doby became a symbol for the fight for equality in our country, and encouraged thousands of Ohioans and kids across our country to push the boundaries of what they thought possible. I join my colleagues in urging the Senate to honor the life and legacy of Larry Doby.”

“It is fitting that the pride of Paterson, N.J., and a man who helped change America's game forever and shape the course of our nation's civil rights be awarded the highest civilian honor Congress has to offer,” said Senator Menendez. “On behalf of all of the people of New Jersey and every American, it is a privilege to honor Larry Doby’s life and legacy.”

“I am grateful for what Larry Doby did to the sport and our country and am pleased I could be a small part of remembering his legacy,” said Rep. Renacci.

“When you grow up in Paterson, New Jersey, you can’t escape the legend of Larry Doby. I’m not just talking about on the field, but civil rights pioneer, public servant, and community devotee,” said Rep. Pascrell, who authored the law naming a Paterson Post Office after Mr. Doby. “We should all look to the legacy of leadership that Larry left behind. The progress Larry fought for did not come easy, and the least we as the Congress can do is to bestow this honor recognizing Larry Doby as a truly great American.”

“The Cleveland Indians organization is very proud of Larry Doby’s legacy,” said Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Bob DiBiasio. “Mr. Doby, a symbol of equality and freedom of opportunity, stood with grace, dignity and a competitive spirit that resonated throughout Ohio and across America.”

Major League Base Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum support the bill.

 

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