Top 100 Cleveland Indians: #5 Larry Doby

Larry Doby - sportsthenandnow.com

Next on the list is a player who had many trials and tribulations as a player but got a lot less recognition than he should have, Larry Doby.

Lawrence Eugene Doby

Center Fielder, 1947-1955, 1958

Height: 6'1" Weight: 180 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Left

How Acquired (1): Free Agent, July 2, 1947 (Newark Eagles, Negro National League)

Left Via (1): Traded (October 25, 1955) to the Chicago White Sox for Jim Busby and Chico Carrasquel

How Acquired (2): Traded (April 1, 1958) by the Baltimore Orioles with Don Ferrarese for Bid Daley, Dick Williams and Gene Woodling

Left Via (2): Traded (March 21, 1959) to the Detroit Tigers for Tito Francona

- - - - - -

South Carolina, New Jersey, Chicago, and the Pacific Theater

Larry Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina in December 1923 to David and Etta Doby. The family was considered well off as David had a thriving career as horse groomer/stablehand. David was on the road quite often and Etta visited her mother often, so Larry spent a good bit of time with his grandmother Augusta Moore.

The stability did not last as David died in a fishing accident in upstate New York when Larry was just 8 years old. Over the next four years his aunt and uncle watched over him while moving quite often. Then when Larry was 12, his mother moved them both to Paterson, New Jersey. There he attended Eastside High and lettered in four sports, including baseball.

His father had been a semi-pro player and Larry inherited a lot of his skills. He played for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues while still in high school in 1942, using the name Larry Walker in order to keep his amateur status. Larry was also a great basketball player, and in 1943 he signed with the Paterson Panthers, becoming the first African American to play in the American Basketball League, a precursor to the NBA. He returned to the Eagles after that season was over.

In 1944, with the draft in full force, Doby transferred to Virginia Union College to play basketball and enter their ROTC program. But the Navy drafted him anyway and he was assigned to Camp Robert Smalls, an all-African-American base just outside Chicago. There, Doby got his first full taste of segregation. He served as a physical education instructor and met future Cleveland Browns star, Marion Motley. He played both basketball and baseball, keeping his skills honed until he was shipped out to the Pacific. There he served with Mickey Vernon of the Senators, and the two became lifelong friends.

In January 1946, he was honorably discharged and decided to once again pursue a baseball career. This was mostly because he had heard that the Dodgers had signed Jackie Robinson the year before. He believed he might have a good shot at the majors. He returned to the Newark Eagles and posted a batting line of .322/.380/.509 in 188 plate appearances. In the Negro World Series he hit .272 with a homer and made the last two outs of the series to clinch a win over the Kansas City Monarchs, who had Satchel Paige on their roster.

A Pioneer in the American League

Even though Vernon had pleaded with owner Clark Griffith to sign him, Bill Veeck of the Indians was more keen on racially integrating the American League. With Robinson breaking the MLB barrier in April, Veeck wanted to do the same but elected to wait until after the All-Star game. Doby stayed with the Eagles for the first half of the year but played sparingly, hitting a homer in his final at bat. The Indians bought his contract on July 2 and intended to have him appear on July 10. But a local scribe got wind of the impending huge story and Doby's start date moved up to July 5 when he pinch hit for pitcher Bryan Stephens. He struck out.

The three-month separation between Robinson's and Doby's major league debuts did not lessen the effects of the color barrier being broken. He was taunted and ridiculed just like Robinson. He did end up playing a lot less than Robinson that first year, starting just one game at first base and being used mostly as a pinch hitter. He received the cold shoulder from many of his own teammates, as well.

In the spring of 1948, Doby was given a shot at a starting position. As Joe Gordon was entrenched at his natural position, second base, Doby was shifted to the outfield. He won the starting job in right field, playing there opening day, before being shifted to center in June. At the age of 24, in his first full MLB season, while still dealing with the integration issues, Doby hit .301/.384/.490 134 OPS+ in 499 plate appearances and finished 29th in MVP voting. The Tribe won the championship and Doby became the first African American to hit a home run in the World Series when he connected off Johnny Sain in Game Four.

In 1949 he made his first of seven consecutive All-Star appearances and hit .280/.389/.468 128 OPS+ while hitting 24 homers and scoring 106 runs. But it was in 1950 that Doby took his game to another level. He hit 326/442/545 156 OPS+, with 25 homers, scoring 110 times and driving in 102. He finished eighth in MVP voting while leading the league in OBP, SLG and OPS+. He continued to mash in 1951, .295/.428/.512 160 OPS+, but his RBI and runs dropped a little.

But his best season was likely 1952. He hit .276/.383/.541 163 OPS+ with 104 RBI. He led the league in runs scored with 104 and with 32 dingers became the first African American to lead either league in home runs. He also led the league in slugging and OPS+ but somehow only finished twelfth in MVP voting. He also hit for the cycle that season, becoming just the fourth Indian to do so.

In 1953, he was not quite as dominant, but still very good, putting up .263/.385/.487 137 OPS+ with 29 homers and 102 RBI. Batting third in the order during the Indians' stellar 1954 season he hit .272/.364/.484 129 OPS+, but led the league with 32 homers and 126 RBI. That earned him a second place finish in MVP voting, just twenty points behind Yogi Berra (teammates Bobby Avila and Bob Lemon both received five first place votes each, as well).

A Departure, a Reunion, and Another Departure

In 1955, Doby played through a wrist injury for most of the season, but still hit .291/.369/.505 130 OPS+ in just 131 games. That offseason, Indians GM Hank Greenberg was offered Chico Carrasquel and Jim Busby from the White Sox in exchange for Doby. Greenberg decided to pull the trigger with the idea that Carrasquel would improve the defense at short, and that Busby could hopefully be useful in center. But neither panned out all that well as the Tribe finished in second, again.

Doby was pretty good for the Sox in 1956, hitting 24 homers and driving in 102. In 1957 he his power started to decrease but he was still a 127 OPS+ player. He was also involved in a big on-field fight with Billy Martin of the Yankees. That offseason, the Sox sent him to the Orioles with three others for three players, including Tito Francona. He never played a game in Baltimore though as the Tribe reacquired him just before the season started.

But at age 34, Doby was no longer a regular. He played just 89 games, but was effective, hitting .283/.348/.490, with a 129 OPS+ and 13 home runs. The next spring, the Tribe dealt him to the Tigers, once again for Tito Francona. Doby played only 18 games before the White Sox bought him for $30k. He played just 21 games for them but was released in late July. He hooked up with the Indians AAA affiliate, the San Diego Padres, for the rest of the season but fractured his ankle after just 9 games.

He tried a comeback with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1960 but was cut without making it into a game. His last time playing professional ball was in 1962 with Japan's Chunichi Dragons.

Retirement Brings a Number of Accolades

After his retirement, he opened a lounge and liquor store in Newark, and also worked in the prosecutor's office for three years. But baseball was too deep in his blood. In 1969, the Montreal Expos hired him as a scout and then was a minor league instructor in 1970. He became their major league batting coach in 1971 until he left to join the Indians as a first base coach in 1974.

While he had no minor league managing experience, he had managed for five years in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues. So when the Tribe fired Ken Aspromonte after the 1974 season, he thought he would get a shot. He was crestfallen when the Tribe hired Frank Robinson to break that color barrier instead of him. He instead returned to the Expos. In 1977, Bill Veeck bought the White Sox again and lured Doby to be their hitting coach. In June 1978, Veeck decided to fire Chicago's then-manager Bob Lemon and replace him with Doby. And just like in 1947, he became the second African American to take a position, this time as manager of a MLB team. Unfortunately those 87 games would be his one and only shot.

Doby stayed with the White Sox as batting coach until resigning after the 1979 season. But then he decided to embark on a different sports career. He was the director of communications for the New Jersey Nets in the NBA from 1980 to 1989 as well as the director of community affairs in 1990. He switched back to baseball in 1995, becoming a special assistant to the AL League President, Gene Budig.

In 1966, the Indians elected Doby to their Hall of Fame and they retired his #14 jersey in 1994. South Carolina inducted him into the state's Hall of Fame in 1973. He was voted into the MLB Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1998. And finally in 2010, the state of New Jersey inducted him into their Hall of Fame as well. He is one of only four players to play in both the World Series and Negro League World Series. The MVP Award of the Futures Game is named after him, as well.

Doby passed away in 2003 after a short battle with cancer. In 2007, the Indians paid tribute by having every playe rwear #14. The team renamed Eagle Avenue (just outside Progressive Field) Larry Doby Way in 2012.

Sources

SABR BioProject, John McMurray; Wikipedia; Baseball Reference Bullpen

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1947 23 CLE 29 33 3 5 1 0 0 2 .156 .182 .188 .369 4
1948 24 CLE 121 499 83 132 23 9 14 66 .301 .384 .490 .873 134
1949 25 CLE 147 650 106 153 25 3 24 85 .280 .389 .468 .857 128
1950 26 CLE 142 609 110 164 25 5 25 102 .326 .442 .545 .986 156
1951 27 CLE 134 551 84 132 27 5 20 69 .295 .428 .512 .941 160
1952 28 CLE 140 611 104 143 26 8 32 104 .276 .383 .541 .924 163
1953 29 CLE 149 617 92 135 18 5 29 102 .263 .385 .487 .873 137
1954 30 CLE 153 673 94 157 18 4 32 126 .272 .364 .484 .847 129
1955 31 CLE 131 560 91 143 17 5 26 75 .291 .369 .505 .874 130
1958 34 CLE 89 276 41 70 10 1 13 45 .283 .348 .490 .838 129
CLE (10 yrs) 1235 5079 808 1234 190 45 215 776 .286 .389 .500 .889 140

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • Hall of Fame: 1998 (by the Veteran's Committee)
  • AL All-Star: 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955
  • AL MVP: 2nd, 1954; 8th, 1950; 12th, 1952; 29th, 1948
  • AL WAR: 3rd, 1950-6.6; 3rd, 1951-6.4; 3rd, 1952-7.0; 6th, 1954-5.7
  • AL WAR Position Players: 1st, 1952-7.0; 2nd, 1950-6.6; 2nd, 1951-6.4; 5th, 1954-5.7; 8th, 1948-4.6; 10th, 1953-4.3; 10th, 1955-3.7
  • AL oWAR: 1st, 1950-6.2; 1st, 1952-6.4; 2nd, 19651-5.9; 5th, 1953-4.9; 7th, 1954-4.6; 9th, 1955-3.6; 10th, 1949-3.8
  • AL dWAR: 9th, 1948-0.8
  • AL Average: 4th, 1950-.326
  • AL On Base Percentage: 1st, 1950-.442; 3rd, 1951-.428; 8th, 1952-.383; 9th, 1955-.369; 10th, 1953-.385
  • AL Slugging: 1st, 1952-.541; 2nd, 1951-.512; 4th, 1950-.545; 4th, 1955-.505; 7th, 1949-.468; 7th, 1953-.487; 7th, 1954-.484; 9th, 1948-.490
  • AL OPS: 1st, 1950-.986; 2nd, 1951-.941; 2nd, 1952-.924; 4th, 1955-.874; 8th, 1949-.857; 9th, 1948-.873; 9th, 1953-.873; 9th, 1954-.847
  • AL Runs Scored: 1st, 1952-104; 7th, 1949-106; 8th, 1953-92; 8th, 1954-94; 9th, 1950-110; 10th, 1955-91
  • AL Total Bases: 4th, 1952-281; 5th, 1954-279; 8th, 1949-256; 10th, 1950-274; 10th, 1953-250; 10th, 1955-248
  • AL 2B: 10th, 1952-26
  • AL 3B: 9th, 1948-9; 9th, 1952-8
  • AL Home Runs: 1st, 1952-32; 1st, 1954-32; 3rd, 1949-24; 3rd, 1953-29; 7th, 1955-26; 9th, 1951-20
  • AL RBI: 1st, 1954-126; 2nd, 1952-104; 7th, 1953-102; 8th, 1949-85; 10th, 1950-102
  • AL Bases on Balls: 3rd, 1953-96; 4th, 1951-101; 5th, 1952-90; 5th, 1954-85; 6th, 1950-98; 10th, 1949-91
  • AL Strikeouts: 1st, 1952-111; 1st, 1953-121; 2nd, 1949-90; 2nd, 1951-81; 2nd, 1954-94; 2nd, 1955-100; 4th, 1948-77; 10th, 1950-71
  • AL Stolen Bases: 5th, 1949-10; 6th, 1950-8
  • AL OPS+: 1st, 1950-156; 1st, 1952-163; 2nd, 1951-160; 5th, 1955-130; 6th, 1949-128; 7th, 1948-134; 8th, 1953-137; 103rd, Career-136
  • AL RC: 3rd, 1952-108; 6th, 1950-119; 6th, 1953-95; 7th, 1951-98; 7th, 1954-102; 7th, 1955-95; 10th, 1949-96
  • AL Extra Base Hits: 2nd, 1952-66; 4th, 1949-52; 7th, 1951-52; 7th, 1954-54; 8th, 1953-52; 10th, 1950-55
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 1st, 1949-7; 5th, 1953-6; 6th, 1948-5; 8th, 1950-6
  • AL Sacrifice Flies: 4th, 1954-9
  • AL Intentional Bases on Balls: 5th, 1955-8
  • AL Caught Stealing: 4th, 1949-9; 6th, 1948-9; 8th, 1950-6
  • AL Win Probability Added: 1st, 1950-5.0; 1st, 1952-4.3; 3rd, 1953-4.8; 3rd, 1954-5.5; 7th, 1951-2.8; 80th, Career-32.2
  • AL Putouts as CF: 2nd, 1954-411; 3rd, 1950-367; 4th, 1949-279; 4th, 1952-399; 5th, 1950-367; 5th, 1955-313; 41st, Career-3392
  • AL Assists as CF: 4th, 1952-11; 4th, 1954-14; 5th, 1949-7; 5th, 1953-10; 5th, 1955-5; 5th, 1958-5; 63rd, Career-76
  • AL Errors as CF: 2nd, 1953-6; 3rd, 1951-8; 4th, 1952-6; 5th, 1949-7; 64th, Career-50
  • AL Double Plays Turned as CF: 1st, 1954-6; 3rd, 1952-3; 4th, 1949-1; 4th, 1951-3; 4th, 1953-23; 47th, Career-21
  • AL Assists as RF: 5th, 1948-6
  • AL Errors as RF: 1st, 1948-9
  • AL Double Plays Turned as RF: 4th, 1948-2
  • AL Putouts as OF: 2nd, 1954-411; 4th, 1949-355; 4th, 1950-367; 4th, 1952-398; 5th, 1953-354; 5th, 1955-313
  • AL Assists as OF: 3rd, 1948-12; 4th, 1954-14
  • AL Errors as OF: 1st, 1948-14; 3rd, 1949-9
  • AL Double Plays Turned as OF: 1st, 1954-6; 5th, 1948-3; 5th, 1951-3
  • AL Range Factor/Game CF: 3rd, 1952-3.01; 4th, 1954-2.78; 5th, 1950-2.64; 67th, Career-2.61
  • AL Fielding Percentage CF: 1st, 1950-.987; 1st, 1954-.995; 2nd, 1955-.994; 3rd, 1949-.976; 3rd, 1952-.986; 5th, 1953-.984
  • AL Range Factor/Game OF: 4th, 1952-3.01; 4th, 1954-2.78; 52nd, Career-2.57
  • AL Fielding Percentage OF: 2nd, 1954-.995; 3rd, 1955-.994; 5th, 1950-.987

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 8th WAR Position Players (43.3)
  • 7th oWAR (40.4)
  • t-43rd Average (.286)
  • t-12th On Base Percentage (.389)
  • 12th Slugging (.500)
  • 12th OPS (.889)
  • 16th Games Played (1235)
  • 17th At Bats (4315)
  • 15th Plate Appearances (2079)
  • 10th Runs Scored (808)
  • 17th Hits (1234)
  • 11th Total Bases (2159)
  • t-29th Doubles (190)
  • t-21st Triples (45)
  • 6th Home Runs (215)
  • 9th Runs Batted In (776)
  • 6th Bases On Balls (703)
  • 5th Strikeouts (805)
  • 23rd Singles (784)
  • 9th OPS+ (140)
  • 12th Runs Created (834)
  • 11th Extra Base Hits (450)
  • t-32nd Hit By Pitch (32)
  • t-49th Sacrifice Flies (16)
  • t-22nd Intentional Bases On Balls (76)
  • t-38th Caught Stealing (32)
  • 2nd Win Probability Added (28.0)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • 31st WAR (7.0, 1952)
  • t-38th WAR (6.6, 1955)
  • t-48th WAR (6.4, 1951)
  • t-30th oWAR (6.4, 1952)
  • t-35th oWAR (6.2, 1950)
  • t-44th oWAR (5.9, 1951)
  • t-16th On Base Percentage (.442, 1950)
  • t-27th On Base Percentage (.428, 1951)
  • t-46th Slugging (.545, 1950)
  • 32nd OPS (.986, 1950)
  • t-34th Runs Scored (110, 1950)
  • t-47th Runs Scored (106, 1949)
  • t-31st Home Runs (32, 1952, 1954)
  • t-13th Runs Batted In (126, 1954)
  • t-13th Bases On Balls (101, 1951)
  • t-21st Bases On Balls (98, 1950)
  • t-29th Bases On Balls (96, 1953)
  • t-43rd Bases On Balls (91, 1949)
  • t-47th Bases On Balls (90, 1952)
  • t-39th Strikeouts (121, 1953)
  • t-31st OPS+ (163, 1952)
  • t-34th OPS+ (160, 1951)
  • t-34th OPS+ (156, 1950)
  • t-18th Sacrifice Flies (9, 1954)
  • t-49th Intentional Bases On Balls (8, 1955)
  • t-5th Win Probability Added (5.5, 1954)
  • t-12th Win Probability Added (5.0, 1950)
  • t-14th Win Probability Added (4.8, 1953)
  • t-26th Win Probability Added (4.3, 1952)
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker