Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Life Lesson From Larry Doby.

       On July 5, 1947 Larry Doby became the second African-American player in major league baseball's modern era.  As you know, 11 Weeks earlier on April 15th, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and became a symbol for baseball, civil rights, and all that could be good in America.  He had to overcome hardship, bigotry, death threats, epithets, and narrow-mindedness at every turn.  Of course, Larry Doby had to endure all the same kinds of mean-spirited trials and tribulations along the way.  So why does Jackie Robinson get the annual day, the universal number retirement, and national canonization while Larry Doby remains a curious footnote, known by only the staunchest of baseball fans and civil rights activists?  I wish there was some deep philosophical and profound reason that required deep analysis.  Alas, it is as simple as Jackie was first and Larry was second.  Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray invented the phone at the same time but Bell got to the patent office first, which is why they had to break up Ma Bell and not Papa Graham.  I am not saying this is fair, it's just the way it is.  And lord knows I am certainly not the first person to point any of this out, but as a second born child, I know it all too well.

By all accounts, Larry Doby was a hell of a ballplayer.  He is rightfully in the hall of fame - though it certainly took a while - for both his play and his status in the history of the game.  I like to think that one of these years, instead of overemphasizing and fetishizing Jackie Robinson and his #42 and all that stuff, that maybe they could have a Larry Doby Day in July when all the players in MLB wear #14 and we can hear the story of how this man integrated an entire league and followed in the footsteps of greatness - but was also most certainly great himself.   Hell, I know it's a long way off, but 2023 will be his 100th birthday and that would be as good a time as any to give him some long overdue recognition.
 photo doby_zpszlvdtebb.jpg
Not shown: Pete Conrad, Gherman Titov, Walther Müller, Karl Dönitz, Tenzing Norgay, Alexander Mackenzie, John Adams, James Garfield, Yale, Beta, Helium, Pennsylvania, Pinocchio, The right to bear arms, The 1969 Chiefs, Michael Wilding, Anne Boleyn, Christiane Martel, Kelly Wiglesworth, Bobby Leach, Tony Roventini, John Landy, Milorad Cavic, Peter Norman, Steffi Graf, and Ty Cobb.


jacobmrley said...

In case that is too much clicking, here is an answer key to that list of people.

Second person to/who: Moon commander, man in space, Geiger-Muller counter, leader of the third reich, to the top of Everest, Prime Minister of Canada, President of the USA, assassinated President, Ivy League school, letter of the Greek alphabet, element on the periodic table, state, Disney film, amendment, AFL team to win the Super Bowl, husband of Liz Taylor, wife of Henry VIII, Miss Universe, finisher on the 1st season of Survivor, man over Niagara Falls in a barrel, person to bowl a sanctioned 900 series, runner of a 4 minute mile, 2012 Olympic 100m butterfly, 1968 Olympic 200m sprint, women's tennis grand slam titles, all time MLB hits.

JediJeff said...

Bell didn't so much as beat Gray to the patent office as outright steal the whole telephone idea:

Number 3 in the list. In fact, I remember reading somewhere (the link avoids me right now) that Bell's lawyers actually bribed the patent office to put his patent application above Gray's. This doesn't talk about a bribe, but does make mention that Bell did not file before Gray.

jacobmrley said...


I have the same wikipedia link in the sentence about Bell and Graham. I was not trying to stir up controversy over the issue (one I am well aware of), I was merely using a good first/second historical shorthand. We can have a good argument over Edison and Tesla as well. As we know, history is written by the winners - and the deep pocketed cheaters.