Major League Baseball honored Jackie Robinson Friday, with every player wearing No. 42, the pioneer's number. It was the 64 years since baseball's integration, and the man's legacy was everywhere.
The organization has done a wonderful job honoring the first black player of the 20th century, beginning in 1997, when it retired Robinson's number for all teams. Since then, baseball has always made sure to honor Robinson for what he is - an American hero.
But for all the attention Robinson and his legacy have rightfully received, there's some things, and some people, who seemingly get lost.
On Friday night, I listened to a number of baseball games on XM radio. I heard announcers mention Robinson numerous times. But there was a name I didn't hear. It's a name I doubt I will hear much July 5 either.
That will be the anniversary of Larry Doby integrating the American League.
Doby was the first black player in the AL when he joined the Indians in 1947. He has been recognized in many ways. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1998. The Indians retired his number in 1994, and the team honored him in 2007 by wearing his No. 14 on the 60th anniversary of his debut.
But still, Doby's legacy is not as recognized the way Robinson's is. While I'm sure even the youngest fans of baseball have heard of Robinson, I doubt that is true of Doby.
Part of this is natural, since we always remember the first person to do something, and everyone else tends to be grouped together. In Ken Burns' 1994 documentary "Baseball" Robinson and his struggles were a major part of the film. Doby was barely touched on.
But for all purposes, Doby was the first. It's hard to imagine now, with interleague play, numerous expansions and cable television making the differences between the American and National League essentially boiling down to the DH rule. But there was a time when the leagues were very much separate entities.
American League players only played National League players at All-Star games and in the World Series. That meant in 1947, Doby was the only black player on the field in almost every game he played (the St. Louis Browns, an American League team, also integrated in 1947). It also means the abuse and loneliness Doby felt was not much different than what Robinson encountered with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League.
That Doby became a top player under that pressure made his career all the more remarkable. He was a seven-time all star who twice led the league in homers. He drove in 100 runs or more five times. He also helped the Indians to the World Series title in 1948, the last one for the franchise. He also was a key component of 111-win 1954 Indians, which lost the Series to the New York Giants.
Doby also went on to manage the White Sox in 1978. He died in 2001.
Robinson, who died in 1972, deserves all the attention and respect he has received. But everyone should remember Doby's greatness, and his sacrifices. Perhaps it'd be fitting to have the American League players where Doby's number July 5.
No. 14 is just as important as No. 42.
Zach Baker is Associate Sports Editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.
Contact him at: