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A Quiet American Hero
bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
10 February 2008
For those of you who are not baseball fans, Pride Against Prejudice:
The Larry Doby Story is about the second black ballplayer in the modern
major leagues and the first to integrate the American League. Four
months after Jackie Robinson started the 1947 season with the Brooklyn
Dodgers, Larry Doby was purchased by Bill Veeck of the Cleveland
Indians from the Negro Leagues, Newark Eagles and he joined the Indians
in Chicago well into the 1947 season.
Robinson as is known to baseball fans was rookie of the year in the
National League and he led the Dodgers to their first pennant since
1941 though they lost as the perennially did, the World Series to the
New York Yankees. Doby had a mediocre rookie season, but owner Bill
Veeck never gave up on him. He switched Doby from the infield to the
outfield and in 1948 he became a standout center-fielder as the Indians
became World Champions in 1948.
Robinson and Doby were both good family men, loving husbands and
fathers. Jackie was as we all know an eloquent spokesman for civil
rights off the field as well. Doby was a shy and retiring type, didn't
particularly feel comfortable in interviews, he much preferred to just
rise and fall on his baseball record.
Doby and Bill Veeck were close the rest of their lives, the way Branch
Rickey and Jackie Robinson were. In his memoirs Veeck said that in
retrospect and from strictly Doby's point of view he might not have
been the best choice to have endured what he did. Doby may have been
quiet, but he was also proud, the racial insults and taunts he received
wounded him deeply and he kept it inside. It might have affected his
play. Of course a .283 batting average and 253 lifetime home-runs were
enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. Doby also led the American
League in home-runs twice during his career spent mostly with the
The documentary mentions in passing how it was Hall of Fame coach Tris
Speaker who may have been the greatest defensive center-fielder ever,
helped to convert Doby from a mediocre infielder to a superlative
center-fielder. What it doesn't mention is that back in his youth
Speaker, from Hubbard Texas, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I wish
producer Bud Greenspan had mentioned that, it's proof positive that as
human beings we can all grow and change.
Among other highlights of Doby's career was in the fourth game of the
1948 World Series against the Boston Braves where he became the first
black man to hit a home-run in the World Series. It was off Braves ace
Johnny Sain and it proved to be the winning run in a 2 to 1 game.
Afterwards the clubhouse picture of Cleveland Indian pitcher Steve
Gromek hugging Doby went around the world. Integration in baseball
Friends and family of Larry Doby contributed their thoughts and
reminiscences of Doby and teammates like Bob Feller, Al Rosen, Ralph
Kiner and Jim 'Mudcat' Grant were interviewed as well.
Pride Against Prejudice: The Larry Doby Story is a fine sports
documentary about a great ballplayer and a fine man who I remember as a
player in my youth. Ballplayers today in this age of million dollar
contracts and steroids would do well to use a man of the class and
pride of Larry Doby as a role model.
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