Thursday, April 16, 2009

DON'T FORGET LARRY DOBY...

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?

Yesterday, to honor Robinson, the Mets unveiled their new ball park Citi Field which features a regal new 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, 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 8-foot, blue sculpture of his No. 42. Grainy highlights of Robinson’s life and career ran continuously on two large video screens. One of the engravings on the terrazzo floor: Jack Roosevelt Robinson. 1919-1972. Trailblazer. Humanitarian. American.

All around the majors yesterday, all players, managers, coaches and umpires wore No. 42, retired for 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, South Carolina, 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 trail he blazed, no doubt, Doby encountered the same difficulties in American League cities that Robinson faced on the National League circuit and his difficult journey is also worth remembering…

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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