Greatness in the Shadows: Larry Doby and the Integration of the American League

Greatness in the Shadows: Larry Doby and the Integration of the American League

Greatness in the Shadows: Larry Doby and the Integration of the American League

Greatness in the Shadows: Larry Doby and the Integration of the American League


Just weeks after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, Larry Doby joined Robinson in breaking the color barrier in the major leagues when he became the first black player to integrate the American League, signing with the Cleveland Indians in July 1947. Doby went on to be a seven-time All-Star center fielder who led the Indians to two pennants. In many respects Robinson and Doby were equals in their baseball talent and experiences and had remarkably similar playing careers: both were well-educated, well-spoken World War II veterans and both had played spectacularly, albeit briefly, in the Negro Leagues. Like Robinson, Doby suffered brickbats, knock-down pitches, spit in his face, and other forms of abuse and discrimination. Doby was also a pioneering manager, becoming the second black manager after Frank Robinson.

Well into the 1950s Doby was the only African American All-Star in the American League during a period in which fifteen black players became National League All-Stars. Why is Doby largely forgotten as a central figure in baseball's integration? Why has he not been accorded his rightful place in baseball history? Greatness in the Shadows attempts to answer these questions, bringing Doby's story to life and sharing his achievements and firsts with a new generation.


It would really disturb me if I went into a locker room and found a black
player who didn’t know what players like Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby and
Don Newcombe did forty or fifty years ago.

—HENRY aaron, introduction to Robinson’s I Never Had It Made

The 2013 film 42 is the most recent Jackie Robinson movie, one of several made over the years. “It is worth the wait,” said Sports Illustrated’s review of the film. in addition to feature-length films, there have been three made-for- tv movies, one Broadway play, and fifty-plus book- length biographies of Jackie Robinson, who played second and third base for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1957.

Robinson’s pathbreaking accomplishments are memorialized in other ways. Every April all Major League Baseball players wear number 42 in honor of his achievements, something they have done since the inaugural Jackie Robinson Day in 2004. Robinson was a six time All-Star, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, the first year in which he was eligible.

Robinson was the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era, breaking into the big leagues on April 15, 1947. in a country where both overt and latent racism were still nearly universal, he endured taunts, epithets, vituperation, hostility, and death threats along with threatened and real acts of physical intimidation. He put up with it all, initially alone, with aplomb and dignity while achieving Hall of Fame numbers, batting .311 lifetime, with 127 home runs. He carried himself with class and . . .

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