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Larry Doby and the Garden State

Research presentations, player panels, and exhibits are underway at the 16th annual Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference.  Also on the agenda for attendees is an outing to Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium.  A glance up at the ring of honor there will show Larry Doby, among others.  Organized baseball hasn’t always paid attention to Doby’s accomplishments.  Our friend Chris Robinson–Doby fan and former sales manager and baseball editor at McFarland–wrote very eloquently of Doby:

“A few weeks after Major League Baseball celebrated the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers, the folks in Camden, South Carolina, honored a hometown hero and baseball pioneer of their own.  The ceremony wasn’t elaborate–no presidential speeches or testimonials from baseball’s hierarchy–but was instead a heartfelt salute to a man who had endured many of the same hardships as Robinson.  Some opponents spit at him, others cursed him, and perhaps most painfully of all, some of his teammates simply ignored him.  Some 50 years later however, Larry Doby, the first African American in the American League, was back home with his friends and neighbors.

That organized baseball paid little attention to Doby’s accomplishments was nothing new.  Despite being a six-time All-Star with the Cleveland Indians, Doby was often overshadowed by others: Robinson, teammate Bob Feller, the legendary Satchel Paige, and even the team’s owner, Bill Veeck.  Even when he was named manager of the White Sox in 1978, he was viewed as a footnote: the major league’s second second black manager.

But, back in Camden he was THE star.  Townsfolk could quote his statistics: 253 home runs, 969 RBIs, and a .283 lifetime batting average.  More importantly, they held him in esteem as a good man and a kind father.  Like Jackie Robinson, he was a pioneer for a sport and a nation.  The people in Camden haven’t forgotten; neither should the people in baseball.”