Larry Doby was the first African American to play baseball in the American League and the second African American to manage a major-league team.
Baseball player. Larry Doby was the first African American to play baseball in the American League and the second African American to manage a major-league team. He was born in Camden on December 13, 1923, the son of David Doby and Etta Brooks. His father was a horse groomer who spent winters in Camden and summers in Saratoga, New York. Doby spent much of his childhood living with relatives and attended Mather Academy in Camden. In 1938 he moved to Patterson, New Jersey, to live with his mother and became a star athlete at Eastside High School. Doby briefly attended both Long Island University and Virginia Union in 1942 and played his first professional baseball game that year under the alias “Larry Walker” to protect his amateur status. In 1946 Doby married Helyn Curvy, and the couple eventually had five children.
After four seasons with the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues, Doby was signed by the Cleveland Indians of the American League on July 5, 1947, only eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson became the first black player in modern major-league baseball. Although he started his career as an infielder, the Indians moved Doby to center field to take advantage of his speed. In his thirteen-year career Doby batted .283, with 253 home runs and 969 runs batted in. A seven- time All-Star from 1949 to 1955, Doby led the American League with thirty-two home runs in both 1952 and 1954, and the major leagues with a .541 slugging average in 1952. After the 1955 season, Doby was traded to the Chicago White Sox, where he played for two years. He returned to the Indians and played briefly with the Detroit Tigers before retiring in 1959.
After 1959 Doby worked as a scout and hitting coach for teams including the Chicago White Sox and the Montreal Expos. He returned as a player briefly in 1962, when he became one of the first Americans to play professionally in Japan. On June 30, 1978, Doby became the manager of the Chicago White Sox, making him the second black manager in the major leagues (Frank Robinson, who played in Columbia in a minor league, was the first). Doby finished the season with the White Sox, posting a record of thirty-seven wins and fifty losses. He was not retained. In the 1980s Doby served as director of community relations for the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets and on an advisory commission appointed by baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth promoting black management in baseball. He received an honorary doctorate from Montclair State College in Montclair, New Jersey. Doby was elected to the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994 and to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. He died at his home in Montclair, New Jersey, on June 18, 2003.
“Baseball Pioneer, S.C. Native Doby Dies.” Columbia State, June 19, 2003, pp. A1, A10.
Moore, Joseph Thomas. Pride against Prejudice: The Biography of Larry Doby. New York: Greenwood, 1988.