Happy Anniversary Jackie Robinson, but Don't Forget Larry Doby

Glenn PettyAnalyst IApril 16, 2009

Yesterday marked the 62nd anniversary of the integration of Major League Baseball by Jackie Robinson. Robinson, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was the first African-American to play in the bigs.

But who was the second black guy to break into the lily-white world of Major League Baseball?

To honor Robinson, the Mets unveiled their new ball park, Citi Field, which features a regal rotunda. Robinson's widow, Rachel, handled the honors, while his daughter, Sharon, tossed out the first pitch. The rotunda includes majestic, black and white photos adorning the brick and tile walls of Robinson, with his Brooklyn Dodgers teammates and pioneering general manager Branch Rickey.

High above the ballpark entrance is an inscription of his famous quote: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” At the other end of the room, an eight foot, blue sculpture of his No. 42. During the opening ceremonies, highlights of Robinson’s life and career ran continuously on two large video screens.

All around the majors yesterday, all players, managers, coaches and umpires wore No. 42, retired from every big league team in a 1997 ceremony at the New York Mets’ old ballpark, Shea Stadium. Only the Yanks' Mariano Rivera was grandfathered in and wears No. 42 on a regular basis.

Lost in the celebrations was a fellow named Larry Doby. A native of Camden, S.C., Doby was the second black player to play in the modern major leagues, and the first to do so in the American League. A center fielder, Doby appeared in seven All-Star games and finished second in the 1954 American League MVP voting.

Appointed manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1978, Doby was the second African-American to lead a major league club. He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Hall's Veterans' Committee.

Taking nothing away from Robinson and the trail he blazed, no doubt, Doby encountered the same difficulties in American League cities that Robinson faced on the National League circuit; his difficult journey is also worth remembering…

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