Your calendar isn’t broken. It really is Friday and there really is no Indians baseball tonight.
The Tribe are one of four teams with a bizarre off-day on a Friday in the middle of the summer. They along with the Reds, White Sox, and Cubs will be home tonight thanks to the oddity of MLB’s rival series, where local teams from opposing leagues face each other in a pair of two-game sets throughout the season. It just so happens that for these four teams, their series land on a weekend.
For the Indians, this is particularly sad because July 5 also marks the day that Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League in 1947. As is customary with MLB in regards to Doby’s legacy, there probably won’t be much mention of it — especially with the Indians sidelined.
On the field, Doby debuted unceremoniously on July 5, 1947 en route to a Hall of Fame career that saw him participate in seven-straight All-Star Games (1949-1955), win the World Series in 1948, and have his number retired by the Indians in 1994.
Today also marks the first Larry Doby Day since Doby was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for his achievements both on and off the field.
A Congressional Bill proposed by lawmakers from Ohio and Doby’s home state of Jersey was passed in Dec. 2018 to award Doby the honor. Among his many other achievements in his lifetime, the Larry Doby Congressional Gold Medal Act commends his time serving in the Navy during WWII, contributions to his community, his pioneering efforts for civil rights, and honorary doctorate degrees from Long Island University, Princeton University, and Fairfield University.
As one of only a few hundred Americans to ever receive a Congressional Gold Medal, and one of baseball’s greatest all-around people, it’s a shame that the Indians won’t get to play on a day that should be about his honor.
Jackie Robinson is rightly celebrated across major-league baseball on the day of his MLB debut, April 15, but Larry Doby is hardly mentioned in the same breath. Despite breaking the color barrier in the American League a mere 11 weeks after Robinson’s debut; despite being the first player to go straight from the Negro Leagues to the majors; despite being, along with teammate Satchel Paige, the first African-American players to win a World Series — there’s nothing.
In SABR’s excellent biography of Doby, author John McMurray mentions that Doby’s teammates often saw him a “warm-hearted guy,” but one who would “sulk” if things didn’t go right. Doby himself later said that the circumstances of his life had led him to be used to being alone. He wasn’t sulking, he was just self-reliant and adapted to the status quo. It’s a shame that decades later, after years of work to fight back against the mentalities that lead to his “sulking” in the clubhouse, he’s once again being left to fall by the wayside by the very institution that should be celebrating him.
As of this writing, no official MLB account that I can find has even Tweeted out the words “Larry Doby”. Last year, the Indians account failed to mention him even once (though in 2017 they did at least tweet out a video of his Hall of Fame speech).
I’m not saying MLB has to roll out a parade every year on July 5, but the man is nothing short of a national hero, yet he gets brushed aside every year in the wake of everyone’s Fourth of July hangovers. At the very least, they could ensure the team he debuted with, the one he had the most success with, is on the field for that day.
Is that so much to ask?