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Pascrell, Renacci, Senators Celebrate House Approval of Congressional Gold Medal to Baseball Pioneer Larry Doby

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Paterson’s Larry Doby broke barriers as Major League Baseball’s second African-American player Credits: National Baseball Hall of Fame Library
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) hailed the passage in the House of Representatives of H.R. 1861, the Larry Doby Congressional Gold Medal Act. The legislation awards the Congressional Gold Medal to the late baseball star, Larry Doby, who broke the American League’s color barrier in 1947.

“A proud product of Paterson, New Jersey, Larry Doby spent his life breaking barriers. Facing unfathomable cruelty and racism from the public and his own teammates, Doby stood on the diamond so that other black players who would follow him would enjoy better opportunities. He succeeded, and in so doing also helped bring America forward at the dawn of the civil rights era,” said Rep. Pascrell. “Almost exactly 71 years ago to the day that Larry Doby broke the color barrier of the American League, Congress is appropriately recognizing Doby for his greatness and for his contribution to this country. The positive impacts of his courage resonate in America every day.”

“Larry Doby joined the Major Leagues shortly after the great Jackie Robinson and faced the same struggles and barriers without the same recognition. Every time I walk through Progressive Field, I am reminded of his contribution to Cleveland and America’s favorite pastime,” said Rep. Renacci.  “I am pleased that my colleagues voted to award Larry Doby the Congressional Gold Medal and further recognizing his incredible life and career.”

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“Larry Doby is not just a sports hero, but an American hero who overcame discrimination and hostility as a young man to lead Cleveland to victory and lead our country in the right direction,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, who displays in his Washington, D.C. front office a replica of the statue of Doby that stands at Progressive Field. “Doby and the 1947 Indians broke barriers, finally integrating all of professional baseball. Doby has seldom received the credit he deserves, and this recognition is just one small way we can honor all he did for civil rights and America’s game.”

“The game of baseball has a long and storied history in Ohio, though no one person did more to shape that history than Larry Doby,” said Sen. Rob Portman. “As the first African-American player to play in the American League, Cleveland Indians star Larry Doby broke down barriers with his remarkable skill and competitive spirit to forever change the game of baseball. Though he enjoyed great success on the field, Doby’s triumph in the fight for equality resounds beyond the ballpark, and his legacy has inspired generations of athletes and community servants across the nation. I join my colleagues in urging the Senate to honor the life and achievements of Larry Doby and pass this legislation.”

“Today marks an important step toward honoring a great American who helped change our national pastime and our country for the better,” said Sen. Cory Booker. “Larry Doby’s commitment to breaking down seemingly insurmountable barriers inspired a generation and changed the course of our nation. As Paterson’s own, Larry Doby continued to serve his community in New Jersey long after his baseball career was over. The Congressional Gold Medal would be a truly fitting tribute to a man who played an instrumental role in our country’s civil rights movement by advancing equality and justice for all.”

“Larry Doby helped change America’s pastime and shape the course of our nation’s civil rights movement,” Sen. Bob Menendez said. “His tenacity and spirit, which was cultivated during his upbringing in New Jersey, helped him overcome the immense adversity he endured. He helped inspire generations and left an incredible mark on our nation’s history. I’m pleased to honor Larry Doby’s life and legacy with a Congressional Gold Medal.”

Major League Baseball issued the following statement on the Act’s passage: “Baseball history is our national history, and very often what happens on the diamond has a profound positive impact on the whole nation. Larry Doby is a titanic figure in America’s game. Through his example and his courage, Major League Baseball became the universal game it is today, and set an example for others to follow. Larry Doby and Jackie Robinson were the pioneers that helped show us that way. Major League Baseball is delighted by this recognition for Larry Doby. Thank you to Representatives Renacci, Pascrell, and their colleagues for their work in the passage of the Larry Doby Congressional Gold Medal Act.”

“The Cleveland Indians organization is extremely proud of Larry Doby’s legacy,” said Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Bob DiBiasio. “Mr. Doby, a symbol of equality and freedom of opportunity stood with grace, dignity and a competitive spirit that resonated throughout Ohio and across America.”

Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby (1923-2003) broke through racial barriers by becoming the first African American to play professional baseball in the American League. Doby served in the United States Navy in the Pacific during World War II. Upon his honorable discharge in 1946, Doby played baseball in the Negro League for the Newark Eagles, taking groundballs as an infielder at the old Ruppert Stadium, and nearby at Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson. 

In 1947, Doby’s contract was purchased by the Cleveland Indians shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League. Doby played his first Major League game on July 5, appearing as a pinch hitter in a Saturday game at Comiskey Field against the Chicago White Sox.

That game would mark the start of a remarkable career. Appearing in 1,533 games as a player, Doby was an excellent hitter, batting .283, with 253 home runs and 969 runs batted in. Despite coming up as a second baseman and shortstop, Doby would excel in the field as a center fielder, setting an American League outfielder record for 164 consecutive errorless games. Over a 13-year career, Doby was voted to seven All-Star squads. After his playing career, Doby became the manager of the White Sox in 1978, just the second black Major League club manager. Doby was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.

In addition to being the first African American to hit a home run in a World Series, Larry Doby was deeply committed to his community. In expression of this commitment, Larry served as the Director of Community Relations for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.  This position granted Larry the opportunity to leverage his character and stature to participate in and influence youth in many of New Jersey’s inner cities.

H.R. 1861 is sponsored by Reps. Renacci and Pascrell and 292 of their House colleagues. Companion legislation in the Senate, S. 802, is sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Tim Scott (R-SC).

The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded by an act of Congress and requires two-thirds of the House of Representatives to cosponsor before the legislation can be considered in Committee or by the full House. Congressional Gold Medals have a long history in the Congress, with the first medal being awarded in 1776 to George Washington. Since then, Congress has authorized over 300 medals to be awarded. Color-barrier breaking athletes have been similarly recognized as Doby; Jackie Robinson received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2003.

In 1997, Rep. Pascrell sponsored legislation in Congress (H.R. 2116) designating the post office at 194 Ward Street in Paterson as the Larry Doby Post Office, which was signed into law. Rep. Pascrell attended the ceremony inducting Larry Doby into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. He authored a concurrent resolution in 2003 that passed the Congress posthumously celebrating Doby’s life and achievements. Pascrell also unveiled a postage stamp memorializing Doby with the United States Postal Service in 2011 at the Larry Doby Post Office in Paterson.

 

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