Hall of Famer broke American League color barrier in 1947
By Joe Trezza
One of the most groundbreaking players in baseball history is a step closer to being honored with one of his country's most prestigious awards.
Larry Doby, Hall of Fame outfielder who broke the color barrier in the American League in 1947, was posthumously nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal on Monday.
U.S. Reps. Jim Renacci (R-OH) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) co-sponsored the bill to honor Doby's "many achievements and contributions to American major league athletics, civil rights and the armed forces."
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. The medal was first awarded in 1776 by the Second Continental Congress to General George Washington, and was awarded in 2003 to Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color line just months before Doby made his debut with the Indians on July 5, 1947.
Bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress, the Congressional Gold Medal carries comparable prestige to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.
"Baseball before Larry Doby and Jackie Robinson was informally segregated. While Jackie Robinson was the first African-American player in the National League, the Cleveland Indians made Larry Doby the first in the American League -- forever changing the face of baseball," Rep. Renacci said. "Not only did Doby wear an Indians' uniform proudly in the franchise's last World Series win in 1948, but he wore our nation's uniform while he served in the Navy during WWII. I am pleased to join my friend and colleague Rep. Pascrell in introducing this legislation to honor Larry Doby for the great strides he made for the game of baseball and the civil rights movement in the United States."
Signed by legendary Cleveland owner Bill Veeck, Doby became a seven-time All-Star in 13 seasons with the Indians, White Sox and Tigers, hitting .283 with 253 home runs and 970 RBIs in 1,533 career games.
Doby led the AL in on-base percentage and OPS in 1950, runs scored and home runs in 1952, and homers and RBIs in '54, and he placed second in AL Most Valuable Player Award voting in '54. Doby became the first African American player to win the World Series, in 1948, and was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1998.
"Like me, Larry Doby started out as a kid on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey, but he went on to blossom into a sports legend, a pioneer of American civil rights, and a man of great service to his country," Rep. Pascrell said. "Larry handled adversity with strength and served as an inspiration for minority kids and adults since his landmark introduction to the Major Leagues. Paterson couldn't be prouder to call him one of our own, and now we call on Congress to bestow this overdue honor to Larry's family."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.