U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have introduced legislation to award civil rights pioneer and longtime Cleveland Indians great Larry Doby with the Congressional Gold Medal. The honor would be a long overdue one for Doby, who broke the color barrier in the American League when he debuted with the Indians on July 5, 1947.
During his 13 seasons playing Major League Baseball (10 with the Indians), Doby amassed 253 home runs and a career slash line of .283/.386/.490. Doby was a central figure in the Indians' 1948 World Series run -- just his second year in the majors -- slashing .301/.384/.490 with 14 home runs in 121 games. In that series, in which the Indians defeated the Boston Braves, Doby became the first African-American player to hit a home run in a World Series game.
Doby also went on to become the first African-American manager in league history when the Chicago White Sox hired him in 1978. He was enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, and just this past offseason the Indians erected a statue in his honor outside of Progressive Field.
Senator Brown, who proudly displays a replica of Doby's statue in his Washington D.C. office, had this to say about Doby and his influence on the game of baseball and the civil rights movement as a whole:
Larry Doby is not just a sports hero, but an American hero who overcame discrimination and hostility as a young man to lead Cleveland to victory and lead our country in the right direction. Doby and the 1947 Indians broke barriers, finally integrating all of professional baseball. Doby has seldom received the credit he deserves, and this bill offers a small way to honor all he did for civil rights and America’s game.
To Senator Brown's point, while Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson every year on April 15 (as they should), "Larry Doby Day" often goes unnoticed.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest reward a civilian can receive from Congress, and only two other baseball players have received one: Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson.