Lawmakers introduce bill to posthumously honor baseball legend Larry Doby with congressional medal
By Jonathan Greene
Published: April 4, 2017
A bill in the U.S. Congress has been introduced to honor hometown baseball legend Larry Doby with the Congressional Gold Medal for breaking the color barrier in the American League.
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, Cory Booker, and Rep. Bill Pascrell introduced legislation in both houses of Congress on Monday.
“It is only fitting that the Pride of Paterson, N.J., and a man who helped forever change America’s pastime and shape the course of our nation’s civil rights be awarded the highest civilian honor Congress has to offer,” Menendez said. “Larry Doby’s tenacity and spirit by which he overcame immense adversity have inspired generations and left an indelible mark on our nation’s history.”
Doby moved to Paterson from South Carolina as a teenager and became a standout athlete at Eastside High School. He played for the Newark Eagles in the Negro National League after attending Long Island University on a basketball scholarship and serving his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
In July 1947, he joined the Cleveland Indians. He made history by becoming the first African-American to play in the American League. In his 13-year career in the American League, he tallied 1,553 games, batting .283 with 253 home runs and 970 runs batted in. Doby played in two World Series and was the first black player to hit a home run in a World Series game.
“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,” Pascrell said. “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.”
Doby managed the Chicago White Sox after his baseball career. He later served as the director of community relations for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. He was inducted into the National baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
“As the first player to integrate the American League, Larry Doby played an instrumental role in our country’s civil rights movement,” Booker said. “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.”
Paterson renamed the baseball field at Eastside Park after Doby. He also appeared on a U.S. Postal Service stamp in 2012.
“I had the privilege of knowing Larry Doby, and I can say with conviction that there is no one more deserving of this honor,” Brett Yormark, chief executive of the Brooklyn Nets, said. “Larry was a pioneer on-and-off the field, bravely changing the landscape of professional sports, and he embodied what it meant to be a community-minded individual. On behalf of the entire Nets organization, I wholeheartedly support awarding Larry with the Congressional Gold Medal.”