Larry Doby is best remembered for becoming the first black player in the American League and the second in modern history in major-league baseball. When Doby made his major-league debut for the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, he broke the league’s color barrier less than three months after Jackie Robinson first played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In the face of racial prejudice, Doby remained a superior hitter and outfielder during his 13-season career, with selection to seven American League All-Star teams. “I had to take it,” Doby said, “but I fought back by hitting the ball as far as I could. That was my answer.”
In 1945, general manager Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson to a contract to play baseball in Montreal. The move made Doby reconsider his options, as playing baseball in the major leagues now seemed a possibility. “My main thing was to become a teacher and coach,” Doby said. “But when I heard about Jackie, I decided to concentrate on baseball. I forgot about going back to college.”
Bill Veeck, who had long been eager to racially integrate the American League, hatched a plan for Doby to join the Cleveland Indians. Doby had played the first half of the season with the Eagles, and he had hit a home run in his final Newark at-bat. The Cleveland team quietly purchased Doby’s contract and brought him to Cleveland.
Teammates, however, did not immediately welcome Doby, averting their eyes and not speaking to him as he made his entry to the clubhouse at Comiskey Park to meet with player-manager Lou Boudreau. “Shrug it off,” Boudreau reportedly said. “I knew it was segregated times, but I had never seen anything like that in athletics,” said Doby. “I was embarrassed. It was tough.”