Heard on the Hill

Baseball Legend Larry Doby Tapped for Congressional Gold Medal

Civil rights icon broke color barrier in the American League

Larry Doby in his days with the Chicago White Sox. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby is getting the Congressional Gold Medal.

The move drew praise from lawmakers not only from his home state of New Jersey, but also from Ohio, where Doby debuted and starred for the Cleveland Indians. After the Senate passed legislation last week to authorize the award, the next step is a signature from President Donald Trump.

Doby broke the color barrier in the American League when he began to play for the Indians in July 1947, excelling as an outfielder and becoming a seven-time All-Star. His time in the Negro Leagues was interrupted by World War II, when he served in the Navy in the Pacific.

“For too long, Larry Doby’s courageous contributions to American civil rights have been overlooked,” said New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. “Awarding him this medal from our national legislature will give his family and his legacy more well-deserved recognition for his heroism.”

Back in July, Pascrell celebrated House passage with Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, who introduced the measure. The pair paid a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to see Doby’s jersey.

(Courtesy office of Rep. Bill Pascrell)
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., visited an exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture featuring a Doby jersey. (Courtesy office of Pascrell)

Ohio’s Sherrod Brown described the All-Star, who died in 2003, as “not just a sports hero, but an American hero who overcame discrimination and hostility.” The senator keeps a replica in his office of the Doby statue that greets visitors to the Indians ballpark.

“Larry Doby seldom receives credit for his role in integrating all of professional baseball, and it’s past time to honor his contributions to both civil rights and America’s game,” Brown said in a statement.

Passage of the act authorizing the honor for Doby comes nearly 15 years after the gold medal was posthumously awarded to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in the National League — and Major League Baseball overall — when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

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