Larry Doby has been nominated to posthumously receive the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to breaking the color barrier in major league baseball, civil rights, and service in defending the United States through military service, announced Rep. Bill Pascrell on Tuesday morning.
“Like me, Larry Doby started out as a kid on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey, but he went on to blossom into a sports legend, a pioneer of American civil rights, and a man of great service to his country,” Pascrell said. “Larry handled adversity with strength and served as an inspiration for minority kids and adults since his landmark introduction to the major league. Paterson couldn’t be prouder to call him one of our own, and now we call on Congress to bestow this overdue honor to Larry’s family.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Congress. The first medal was awarded in 1776 by the Second Continental Congress to General George Washington. Since then, over 300 medals have been awarded.
The Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are considered to carry equal weight in prestige.
“Baseball before Larry Doby and Jackie Robinson was informally segregated. While Jackie Robinson was the first African American player in the National League, the Cleveland Indians made Larry Doby the first in the American League – forever changing the face of baseball,” Rep. Jim Renacci of Ohio, who is cosponsoring the bipartisan bill, said.
Jackie Robinson was recognized with a Congressional Gold Medal in 2003.
“Not only did Doby wear an Indians’ uniform proudly as the first black player to play in the World Series, but he wore our nation’s uniform while he served in the Navy during WWII,” Renacci said.
Doby was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1946. He played in the Negro League for the Newark Eagles before his contract was acquired by the Cleveland Indians in 1947. In his 13-year career in the American League he appeared in 1,533 games, batted .283, with 253 home runs, and 969 runs batted in.
Doby was voted to seven all-star teams. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
“The Cleveland Indians organization is very proud of Larry Doby’s legacy,” said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs. “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.”
Pascrell designated the Ward Street post office in Paterson the Larry Doby Post Office after the baseball legend in 1997. In 2002, the United States Postal Service honored Doby by releasing a commemorative postage stamp.
At age 12, Doby moved to Paterson. He developed his skills playing sandlot baseball close to his home at the Newman Playground and on 12th Avenue. He played baseball at Eastside High School.
Legislation to bestow a Congressional Gold Medal requires the legislation be co-sponsored by two-thirds of both the House of Representative and the Senate before their respective committees, the House Committee on Financial Services and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, will consider it.
“I appreciate my Ohio friend, Rep. Renacci, for joining me in this bipartisan effort to recognize a great American,” Pascrell said.