Camden native and Baseball Hall of Fame enshrinee Larry Doby will have his number 14 jersey retired by the Columbia Fireflies on Saturday night as part of the organization’s Negro League Celebration.
In commemoration of the occasion, the Fireflies players will wear throwback Newark Eagles --- the Negro League team for which Doby played after serving in the U.S. military --- uniforms for Saturday’s 6 p.m. game with the visiting Hickory Crawdads, who will play in the uniforms of the Negro League’s Chattanooga Choo-Choos.
During the game, time will be taken as the Fireflies’ organization will permanently retire Doby’s number 14 jersey number along with Jackie Robinson’s 42 and the number 20 jersey of Frank Robinson, who played minor league ball in Columbia before embarking on a Hall of Fame career. The depictions of the jerseys will be placed on the outfield wall in perpetuity by the Fireflies’ organization.
Doby was born in Camden in 1923 and spent his pre-teen years living on Market Street before moving with family to Paterson, N.J. A star infielder with the Newark Eagles, Doby broke the American League’s color barrier when he played his first game for the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, some six weeks after Jackie Robinson made his Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 1948, his first full season in the big leagues, Doby became the first African-American to hit a home run in World Series play while helping the Indians to their second and most recent World Series title. On April 12, 1950, Doby hit the first home run of the decade in the major leagues. In 1952, Doby became the first African-American to lead either league in home runs.
During Major League career, Doby was a seven-time All-Star and put together five-100 RBI and eight 20 home run seasons. In 1978, the same man who gave him his shot as a player in the major leagues in 1947, Bill Veeck, hired him to manage his Chicago White Sox.
In 1998, Doby was enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Upon his death in 2003, President George W. Bush remarked “Larry Doby was a good and honorable man, and a tremendous athlete and manager. He had a profound influence on the game of baseball.”
Tickets for Saturday’s and all Columbia Fireflies home games may be purchased at the gate as well as online by logging on to columbiafirelies.com.