Lawrence Eugene Doby. Larry Doby. Center fielder. Cleveland Indians. Memory yet preserves the image of Larry Doby at bat. A tall man erect moving the bat in a long arc ever so slightly upward the better to send the ball out of the park. He's 52 years old now a coach with the Chicago White Sox.
Thirty years ago this Independence Day. Larry Doby became the second black man allowed to play major league baseball. The Dodgers brought up Jackie Robinson in April, 1947, three months before the Indians signed Doby off the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. If the white man's world persecuted Robinson and we know it did then what was life like for Larry Doby? We never heard.
"Jackie and I talked quite a bit on the telephone that year." Doby said this morning at his locker in Comiskey Park. "We talked about racial stuff prejudices. I don't know that we solved anything but it probably helped us mentally to share it with somebody. We just learned to avoid certain people."
Doby shrugged. "Of course that was pretty easy to do because you were isolated anyway. Hotels, restaurants, you couldn't go in with the team."
A white newspaperman, working in New Orleans, once walked into a downtown department store. He would have a quick lunch at the counter. He sat down. And waited. The waitress saw him, he thought, so why was she just standing there, ignoring him? He called to her. Nothing in response. He called more loudly, and she walked away. Leaving, the man saw a sign, "Colored Only," and he was angry the rest of the day. For Robinson, For Doby, the anger lasted years.
"The hotels and restaurants changed around '53 or '54," Doby said. "And some people are trying to reconstruct their lives, to pretend they're something they're not. But all your play-acting, the Shakespearian drama, doesn't mean anything. Once that prejudice is in you, it's in you to stay."
Doby is a proud man with ambition. He wants to be a big-league manager. He believes he has paid his dues. An All-Star six times in his 13-yer playing career, Doby hit 253 home runs and batted .283. The home run he remembers best came off Boston's Johnny Sain to win the third game of the 1948 World Series for Cleveland, 2-1. Done as a player in 1959, Doby became a minor league coach in the Montreal organization in 1968, moving to up to the major league team three years later.
When Bill Veeck bought the White Sox two years ago, it was only natural he hire Doby as a coach. It was Veeck, then owner of the Indians, who hired Doby as the American League's first black player.
So Doby has been around major league baseball for 30 years. "If you're black and you're working in a white man's world and you survive that long, you are strong," he said. "The disappointment in the 30 years is in the percentage of black ballplayers - a lot - and you're talking about no black managers now that Frank Robinson is gone, you're talking about one or two blacks in the front offices. It's heart-breaking not to have that representation.
Doby believes he has the necessary qualities to succeed as a manager. "You have to understand people, communicate, be patient, observe the attitudes and moods, the mental as well as the physical aspects of a person. I can do that."
Doby isn't so sure, though, he can handle the rest of it. "The bullfeathers of it," he said, not quite using those words. "It's not that you don't have quality. The power structure sees to it you're not in the game of musical chairs. It's like people who go to church every Sunday and then on Monday do things they didn't learn in church. There's all this talk about brotherhood and humanitarianis - all bullfeathers."
Can Doby see a day when he'll be a manager?
"Possibly. Frank Robinson evidently was allowed to work hard toward a goal. That has to be a proud moment in black history. But, possibly, I don't meet the requirements."
Doby allowed a small smile to play across his face. "I'm not half-man and half-fish, or half-man and half-woman, or whatever it takes to be a member of their fraternity. I have strong opinions because I believe in myself.
"They say, "Well, you have to manage in the minor leagues." There are managers hired who never worked in the minors. And they say, 'Well, you have to be an organization man.' There are managers hired who have never been in the organization before.
"All those bullfeather things are copouts, excuses, hypocrisy."
Doby said he isn't "better or upset, just concerned" that major league baseball's power structure is so heavy white while hundreds of players are black.
But he's not changing to please anyone. "I can't do that. When you put me in that uniform 30 years ago, you made me a man. I'm not Stepin Fetchit and I never will be. And that's probably why I won't ever be a manager. I now you must communicate with the general manager and the president of the club, but when they start telling you how to run it on the field - I wouldn't put up with that."