Everyone remembers Jackie Robinson as the man who broke the color barrier in MLB with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
But just months later, another man would come out of the Negro Leagues to become the next African American star in MLB: outfielder Larry Doby.
In fact, Doby became the first black player in the American League when he was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1947.
Before he made it to the bigs, he was already a star in the Negro Leagues at 23 years old.
He was the star of the 1946 Negro League champions, the Newark Eagles.
He was an All-Star that year, hitting .341 while finishing just one home run behind the legendary Josh Gibson, the league leader.
He served a few years in World War II, so it’s hard not to wonder what his MLB tally would have been without segregation and the war hiatus.
He managed to play 1,533 games in MLB by the time he was 35 years old.
An impressive hitter with many accomplishments
He hit .283/.386/.490 with 253 homers, 960 runs, 970 RBI and 47 stolen bases.
Doby was a comfortably above average hitter with 137 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus).
The wRC+ (a statistic that compiles offensive performance and adjusts for external factors such as different eras and stadiums) assigned to an average offensive player is 100.
In his second season in the major leagues, Doby would be crowned MLB World Series Champion with the Indians.
That was actually the last championship of the franchise now called the Cleveland Guardians.
Doby’s career accomplishments include an appearance at a Negro League All-Star Game (1946), seven MLB All-Star Games (1949–1955), a Negro World Series (1946), an MLB World Series (1948), and two American League home run crowns (1952, 1954) and one RBI crown (1954).
Cleveland retired his No. 14, a well-deserved honor.
Looking back at the life and career of Larry Doby.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) February 2, 2022
Like Robinson, Doby has endured some tough times as a black player in a racist league and society.
He paved the way for others and was a symbol of integration
He helped pave the way for hundreds of black players to come after him: Monte Irvin, Satchel Paige, Hank Thompson, Roy Campanella, Willard Brown, Dan Bankhead, Minnie Minoso, Don Newcombe and many more.
Eventually, Doby became the second black manager in MLB and was inducted into the Hall of Famers in 1998 by the Veterans’ Committee.
In addition to the Eagles and Indians, Doby played for the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Chunichi Dragons of the Nippon Professional League in the 1960s.
Robinson was a true icon, but there’s no question that Doby deserves more credit.
Like Robinson, he didn’t come to MLB just to be your average player: he was really, really good.
As a testament to his talent, Doby racked up a 51.1 wins above replacement, or WAR, while Robinson had 57.2: he wasn’t far behind the big Jackie.
As a player, Doby was the complete package: he could bat for a high average despite not really being a .300 player, but his ability to walk got him a really high OBP.
He had impressive strength and was a good defensive outfield player.
Doby is actually a very respected figure among gamers of his time.
Native American Larry Doby running from adoring fans, 1949 pic.twitter.com/6DzESiGSL6
— Baseball in Pictures (@baseballinpix) January 15, 2022
It’s about time fans learned more about him and what he means (and means) to baseball too.