Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Honor Baseball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer Larry Doby with Congressional Gold Medal

Doby Was the First African-American to Play in the American League, Effectively Integrating All of Professional Baseball; 2017 Marks 70th Anniversary of Doby’s Debut with the Cleveland Indians

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC), along with U.S. Reps. Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-9), introduced legislation to honor Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League, with the Congressional Gold Medal for his career and contributions to the American civil rights movement. In joining the American League, Doby effectively integrated all of professional baseball. This year is the 70th Anniversary of Doby’s debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1947.

“Larry Doby seldom receives credit for his role in integrating all of professional baseball and it’s past time to honor his contributions to both civil rights and America’s game,” said Brown, who displays in his Washington, D.C. office a replica of the statue of Doby that stands at Progressive Field. “Doby’s heroism surpasses his remarkable skill – he overcame discrimination and hostility to break barriers, leading Cleveland to victory and moving our country in the right direction.”

“As the first player to integrate the American League, Larry Doby played an instrumental role in our country’s civil rights movement,” said Booker. “His perseverance through adversity inspired a generation and made a lasting impact on American history. And long after his baseball career was over, he continued to serve his community in New Jersey. The Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting recognition for an individual who helped change our national pastime and our country for the better.”

“The game of baseball has a long and storied history in Ohio and Feller, Thome, Bench, Rose, and Larkin are household names throughout our state. No one person did more to change the game, however, than Larry Doby,” said Portman. “As the first African American player in the American League, Larry Doby broke down barriers with his remarkable skill and competitive spirit and forever changed the game of baseball. Through sheer determination, Doby became a symbol for the fight for equality in our country, and encouraged thousands of Ohioans and kids across our country to push the boundaries of what they thought possible. I join my colleagues in urging the Senate to honor the life and legacy of Larry Doby.”

“It is fitting that the pride of Paterson, N.J., and a man who helped change America's game forever and shape the course of our nation's civil rights be awarded the highest civilian honor Congress has to offer,” said Menendez.  “On behalf of all of the people of New Jersey and every American, it is a privilege to honor Larry Doby’s life and legacy.”

“Being the ‘first’ to break through barriers is often a responsibility that is met with enormous sacrifice and perseverance,” said Scott. “These are individuals who risk it all to pave a different, brighter future for countless generations, and why trailblazers like South Carolina native Larry Doby deserve to be recognized for taking the first step that has opened the door to so many. Doby’s contribution to Major League Baseball, the Civil Rights movement, and his service to our nation will forever be etched in our country’s history.”

“I am grateful for what Larry Doby did to the sport and our country and am pleased I could be a small part of remembering his legacy,” said Renacci.

“When you grow up in Paterson, New Jersey, you can’t escape the legend of Larry Doby. I’m not just talking about on the field, but civil rights pioneer, public servant, and community devotee,” said Rep. Pascrell, who authored the law naming a Paterson Post Office after Mr. Doby. “We should all look to the legacy of leadership that Larry left behind. The progress Larry fought for did not come easy, and the least we as the Congress can do is to bestow this honor recognizing Larry Doby as a truly great American.”

“The Cleveland Indians organization is very proud of Larry Doby’s legacy,” said Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Bob DiBiasio. “Mr. Doby, a symbol of equality and freedom of opportunity, stood with grace, dignity and a competitive spirit that resonated throughout Ohio and across America.”

Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby joined the Cleveland Indians in July 1947, becoming the first African-American to play in the American League. During his 13-year career in the American League, Doby tallied 1,533 games, batting .283, with 253 home runs and 970 runs batted in. He played in two World Series, leading the 1948 Cleveland Indians to a World Championship over the Boston Braves. He was the first African-American player to hit a home run in a World Series game, led the American League in home runs twice, and was voted to seven All-Star teams.

In 1978, the Chicago White Sox hired Doby as their manager and he became the second African-American manager in Major League history. He later served as Director of Community Relations for the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association. He was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2013.

Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina in 1923 and moved to Paterson, New Jersey in 1938, where he became a standout athlete at Paterson Eastside High School. He attended Long Island University on a basketball scholarship before enlisting in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was discharged in 1946 and went on to play baseball in the Negro National League for the Newark Eagles. Doby passed away in 2003.

Major League Base Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum support the bill.

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