Niagara Gazette

Opinion

April 30, 2014

BRADBERRY: Sports ... Leveling the playing field, again

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Not everybody who liked the Indians liked them for the same reasons. But from what I gather, Dad liked them at least in part because their owner, Bill Veeck, had the courage and good sense on July 5, 1947, to sign Doby to a contract with the Cleveland Indians, making him the first African-American to play for the American League, about three weeks after Jackie Robinson’s debut with Brooklyn in the National League.

Doby, who was born in December 1923 in Camden, S.C., batted left and threw right.

After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Army, where he stayed until 1946. When he came out of the service, he went to play baseball with the Negro National League’s Newark Eagles for four seasons, leading them to a championship in 1946. Bill Veeck, Cleveland’s owner, had scouted Doby, recognized his talent and made him an offer. The rest, as they say, “is history.”

Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, he was a nine-time all-star, earning seven appearances with Cleveland and two with the Eagles. He twice led the American League with home runs. During his career he also played for the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. In 1962, he became the first former pro player to play for a professional Japanese team, the Chunichi Dragons.

Commenting on the role he played in the integration of the sport, he said that the United States was still very segregated when he played. He was not able to stay at the same hotels or eat at the same restaurants as the rest of the team because of the color of his skin. He was often taunted, verbally assaulted by the fans and not accepted by many of the white players, but he said he never let that affect his games.

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