Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby was born on December 13, 1923, in Camden, South Carolina to parents David and Etta. David Doby drowned during a fishing trip when Larry was 8. Four years later, Larry and his mother moved to New Jersey, where Larry developed as a baseball player. He also met Helyn Curly, who would later become his wife and mother to their five children.
Following high school, Doby attended Long Island University and Virginia Union College before being drafted into the Navy. In 1946, after leaving the Navy, Doby played for the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues and was noticed by the owner of the Cleveland Indians, Bill Veeck. The following summer, the Indians purchased his contract from the Newark Eagles, advancing Dolby to the Major Leagues.
Like Jackie Robinson, Doby endured racism and intolerance in the major leagues. When he first entered the Indians’ clubhouse, his teammates averted their eyes and would not speak to him. As Doby said, “It was 11 weeks between the time Jackie Robinson and I came into the majors. I can’t see how things were any different for me than they were for him.”
Doby played very little in his debut season with the Indians, but soon blossomed into a perenial All-Star. In 1948, he and Indians’ teammate Satchel Paige became the first African American players to win a World Series championship. In that series, Doby became the first African American to hit a home run in a World Series game. After his playing career ended, Doby moved on to coaching and, briefly, was the manager for the Chicago White Sox in 1978, thus becoming the second African American manager in major league history, following in the footsteps of Frank Robinson.
In 1997, the Cleveland Indians retired Doby’s number 14 on the 50th anniversary of his debut and in 1998 Doby was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. He battled health problems over the next five years. His wife of 55 years, Helyn, died of cancer in 2001. Larry Doby died of cancer two years later.
Upon his death, former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent said: Larry’s role in history was recognized slowly and belatedly. Jackie Robinson, who broke the color line first but in the same year, quite naturally received most of the attention. Larry played out his career with dignity and then slid gracefully into various front-office positions in basketball and then later in baseball. Only in the 90s did baseball wake up to the obvious fact that Larry was every bit as deserving of recognition as Jackie.”
David M. Jordan, Larry R. Gerlach, and John P.Rossi “Bill Veeck and the 1943 sale of the Phillies: A Baseball Myth Exploded”. SABR.org; Vincent, Fay (22 June 2003). "Larry Doby Played with Dignity and Without Bitterness". The New York Times (The New York Times Company); Zminda, Don, Go-Go To Glory—The 1959 Chicago White Sox (ACTA, 2009)