Doby: The forgotten trailblazer
Impact remains strong, if not always remembered
The young black kids of Lacoochee, Fla., gathered in the street to play ball on a summer day in 1947. Picking up their wooden bats and putting on their leather mitts, each one took the name of their favorite Major League player.One child announced he was "J.R." Another was "Jackie." A third was "Robby." And one even went by the moniker "Jack Man." Young Jim Grant, however, had a different name in mind -- one that served as no variation of Jackie Robinson, the first player to break baseball's color barrier. "I came along," the man now known as "Mudcat" recalled, "and said, 'I'm Larry Doby.'" Time stopped. "They're all looking at me like, 'You are who?'" Grant said with a chuckle. Then, like now, Doby's name didn't easily register in the consciousness when it came to recognizing baseball's trailblazers. Even today, 60 years after Doby became the second black Major Leaguer and the first black in the American League by donning the uniform of the Indians in a game against the Chicago White Sox, his impact on the sport often goes unrecognized. "I have been at dinners in New York, where it all first happened, and Larry was an afterthought," said Grant, who later played alongside Doby with the Indians in the late 1950s. "Sometimes his name wasn't even mentioned when we were celebrating Jackie, and Larry was sitting there in the audience. "When the introduction was made, it was just, 'And now we have Cleveland Indians outfielder Larry Doby.' There was more to it than that!" Yes, quite a bit more. His early years Born on Dec. 13, 1923, in Camden, S.C., Doby migrated north to Paterson, N.J., when he finished grade school. His mother had moved to New Jersey because wages were better in the North. But the attitude toward young blacks like Doby was little better than in the South. Sure, Doby could play on his high school baseball, basketball and football teams, but he'd do so while enduring the racial inequalities that reflected the times. "One of the interesting things about segregation in the North is that being on these different high school teams, on a Saturday, you'd get together with the football, baseball or basketball team and go to the movies," Doby said in a Showtime documentary about his life. "They would go downstairs, and I would go upstairs. African-Americans couldn't sit downstairs in the movies."
|"I was in the South Pacific, and I heard on the radio that [Jackie Robinson] had signed with [the Dodgers]. It's amazing how many guys were very happy about that situation, because there would be opportunities for the rest of us."|
|-- Larry Doby|
|"Remember Larry Doby as a very historical figure. Remember him to the point where you tell your children about him. He was able to withstand the hatred and the segregation. He was proud of his African-American history and proud to represent the black community."|
|-- Jim "Mudcat" Grant|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.