Doby, Lawrence "Larry" Eugene (13 December 1924-18 June 2003) was the second African American player in Major League Baseball, the first in the American League. Doby joined the CLEVELAND INDIANS on 5 July 1947 eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson integrated the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the second African American to serve as a manager. He managed the Chicago White Sox in 1978; three years after Frank Robinson managed the Cleveland Indians. An infielder early in his career, Doby became a full time outfielder in 1948.
Born in Camden, South Carolina, to David Doby and Etta Brooks, Doby lived with relatives for a portion of his childhood after his parents divorced and his mother moved to Paterson, New Jersey. Doby joined her in 1938 to attend Eastside High School, where he graduated from in 1942.
During the summer of 1942 Doby played for the Newark Eagles in the Negro National League. That fall he began course work at Long Island University, but transferred during his first year to Virginia Union College in Richmond to play basketball and participate in their ROTC program. Before the end of his freshman year, Doby received his draft notice and served in the Pacific theater of World War II with the Navy until January of 1946.
Doby returned to the Newark Eagles for the 1946 season, where he hit .348 and played in two East-West All Star Games. On August 10 of that year Doby married his high school sweetheart, Helyn Curvy at a Baptist church in Paterson. At the end of the year the Eagles faced the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League World Series.
After the 1946 season Doby played in several games with the Jackie Robinson All Stars, a team of African American players, against a team of white Major League players dubbed the "Honus Wagner National League All Stars." At the end of the year he traveled to Puerto Rico to play winter ball with the San Juan Senators. During the 1946-47 season he had one of the top batting averages in Puerto Rico at .358 and was second in home runs with 14.
Cleveland Indians owner BILL VEECK† began to lay the groundwork for integration in 1946 and paid close attention to Doby's stellar Negro League performance that year. Veeck hired Lou Jones to handle public relations for the Indians and to "prepare the black segment of Cleveland" for the addition of an African American player. Veeck also hired "Reindeer Bill" Killefer to scout young black talent for the team. They hoped to find a talented player that did not smoke, drink or swear-a profile that Doby fit.
In 1947 Doby led the Eagles to the first half championship as he hit .458 with 14 home runs and 35 RBI. On July 1 Veeck made an offer to Effa and Abe Manley, the owners of the Eagles, to purchase Doby's contract for $10,000. The Manleys would receive a $5,000 bonus if Doby was successful with the Indians and remained with the team. With the deal complete,, Lou Jones met Doby in Newark and traveled with him to Chicago to meet the Indians for a series with the White Sox.
Doby only had 32 at bats over 29 games during the remainder of the 1947 season with the Indians, hitting .156 with no home runs and two RBI. He saw more playing time in 1948 with 439 at bats and excelled with a .301 average, 14 home runs and 66 RBI. With Doby and Negro League legend LEROY "SATCHEL" PAIGE† the Indians won the 1948 World Series over the Boston Braves. Doby hit .318 in the series with two RBI and a decisive home run for the victorious Indians in game four. He struggled during 1954 World Series when the Indians lost to the New York Giants with a .125 average and no home runs or RBI.
Doby remained with the Indians until the 1956 season when he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Chico Carrasquel and center fielder Jim Busby. After the 1957 season the White Sox traded him to Baltimore. Before the 1958 season even began, Baltimore traded him and pitcher Don Ferrarese to Cleveland for outfielder Gene Woodling, utility player Dick Williams and pitcher Bud Daley. At the beginning of the 1959 season Cleveland traded Doby to Detroit for Tito Francona. In May, his contract was sold to the Chicago White Sox. Chicago gave up on him before the end of the year due to a chronic back injury. Doby retired and then went to work as a scout for the White Sox. In 1962 he briefly came out of retirement to play for the Chunichi Dragons of Nagoya in Japan. Throughout his Major League career Doby had a .283 average, 253 home runs, 970 RBI and 1515 hits. He appeared on seven all star teams with the Indians in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955.
In 1968 Doby became a scout for the Montreal Expos, with hope of working toward a management position somewhere in baseball. By 1971 he was the full time hitting coach for the Expos after several years of working as a scout and minor league hitting instructor. His first management opportunity came during the winter of 1970-71 with Zulia of Maracaibo, Venezuela in the winter league. In 1974 he was hired as a coach by the Cleveland Indians. Many viewed him as the team's future manager. However, in 1975 Frank Robinson was hired instead and former manager Ken Aspromonte's coaches, including Doby, were fired.
Bill Veeck became president of the Chicago White Sox in 1977 and hired Doby as a coach to manager Bob Lemon, a former Indians' teammate of Doby's. When Lemon was fired on 30 June 1978 Doby was promoted to manager, only to be replaced before the 1979 season. After this experience Doby worked as an advisor in baseball, most notably to the American League President.
In 1994 the Indians chose to retire Doby's number 14, and in 1998 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York by the Hall's Veterans Committee. On 19 July 2001 his wife Helyn died at age 76 after a six month struggle with cancer. Doby died of cancer at his home in , Montclair, New Jersey less than two years later and was cremated. The couple had five children, Christina, Leslie, Larry Jr., Kimberly and Susan.
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2009 02:59:31 PM
Moore, Joseph Thomas. Pride Against Prejudice: The Biography of Larry Doby (1988).