Thursday, July 5, 2007

Larry Doby, It's Your Day!

On June 5th, 1947, a talented and courageous ballplayer gained worldwide attention by becoming the first black ballplayer in the American League. Although his debut with the Cleveland Indians was in the shadows of Jackie Robinson who had broken the color barrier less than 3 months earlier in the National League, the situation was little if any easier to bear. Much like Robinson, Doby handled history in a professional manner.
I got to know Larry Doby years later when he became a coach for the Cleveland Indians in the mid 70's. He was extremely approachable and polite as he would stand outside the old stadium and chat for what seemed hours at a time. He was especially good to my youngest brother who pestered Larry after each home game. My brother, who was about 10 years old at the time, quizzed Doby about anything and everything going on with the Tribe. After answering a very sensitive question one night about the strained relationship between manager Ken Aspromonte and player Frank Robinson (who replaced Aspromonte as manager at the end of the season), Doby looked at my brother and said in a booming voice, "John, please go to college and study political science and you will be very successful!" It was excellent advice as John is very successful!
Larry Doby was a great ballplayer, a courageous human being, and all of us who were fortunate to know him are better people for the wonderfully unique experience.

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