CLEVELAND (AP) Larry Doby’s legacy as a baseball player and pioneer has a permanent home.
The Cleveland Indians unveiled a bronze statue of Doby, the first African-American player in the American League, before Saturday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox.
Doby’s son, Larry Jr., unveiled the statue, which stands outside Progressive Field and depicts his father completing his swing after hitting the ball.
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Several other members of Doby’s family, Indians owner Paul Dolan, Jim ”Mudcat” Grant – Doby’s roommate with the Indians – and Ted Toles, who played in the Negro Leagues for the Cleveland Buckeyes, were among those on hand for the ceremony, as well as several hundred fans.
”If my father was here he’d be overjoyed,” Larry Doby Jr. said. ”This is for our family and for Cleveland. Dad told me he was never booed in Cleveland and he always remembered that.”
The statue stands alongside those of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller and first baseman Jim Thome.
Doby’s first game was July 5, 1947, just months after Jackie Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Doby was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and died in 2003.
”He goes beyond wins and losses,” Dolan said. ”He was a man who was second to none and it’s time the world got to know him.”
After playing several years in the Negro Leagues, Doby was signed by Indians owner Bill Veeck and debuted two months into the `47 season. Doby suffered the same hardships Robinson did when it came to adjusting to life in the major leagues. He endured racist taunts from fans and opposing players, had a difficult time being accepted by some teammates and was forced to stay in separate accommodations in spring training and on the road.
Doby overcame the challenges and made the All-Star team seven times. A left-handed hitting outfielder, he was a key member of the Indians team that won the 1948 World Series – the franchise’s last championship – and the 1954 club that won 111 games, a record for victories in a season at the time. Doby batted .272 and led the league with 32 homers and 126 RBIs that season.
Grant joined the Indians in 1958 and still remembers the experiences he learned from being Doby’s friend.
”He never wavered from how well he was going to play and how well he was going to do,” Grant said. ”He became an All-Star and a Hall of Famer.”
Doby played for the White Sox in 1956-57 before returning to the Indians in 1958. He ended his career in 1959, playing for Detroit and the White Sox. Doby finished with a career .283 average, 253 home runs and 970 RBIs. He batted over .300 and topped the 30-homer mark twice and drove in 100 runs five times.
Doby, who was an Indians coach in 1974, became the second black manager in the majors in 1978 when Veeck hired him to manage the White Sox, three years after the Indians hired Frank Robinson.
Indians manager Terry Francona and his players attended the ceremony. Ironically, Doby was twice traded in deals that involved Francona’s father, Tito Francona.