65th Anniversary of Larry Doby’s Integration
As the Cleveland Indians celebrate the 65th anniversary of Larry Doby’s integration into the American League, the city of Cleveland announces the commemoration of Eagle Ave. as Larry Doby Way. The unveiling of the street sign will take place following tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Larry Doby, Jr., and Larry Doby’s daughters, Christina Fearrington and Nicole Frasier will be in attendance. Doby’s former teammate, Jim “Mudcat” Grant and Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman will also take part in the ceremony. Larry Doby, Jr. and Grant will attend the Indians front office diversity breakfast. Larry Doby’s family and Grant spent two hours talking to fans at the Baseball Heritage Museum, discussing Larry Doby’s integration and answering fans’ questions. Below is a transcript of pieces of Grant’s talk.
The kids had a thing back then about Jackie Robinson. It was, ‘I’m J.R. I am Robinson.’ For some reason, when Larry came in there, I said, ‘I am Larry.’ I got beat up every time. ‘How could you be Larry Doby?’ they said. I would just say, ‘I’m Larry’ and then run like him. That was the beginning. Looking back, they always say that God put you there at that particular place for a reason. That’s what He wanted. I was 12 years old, and I was Larry Doby.
Now, I’m in professional baseball, so I go to Spring Training. I get to Spring Training, and when I get to the hotel, the team is already practicing. The desk clerk told me, ‘Oh, Mr. Grant, the team has been waiting on you. You will be rooming with Larry Doby.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ That scared me to death that I was going to be rooming with him. He said, ‘Yeah, you are.’ So I go to the room, and of course, Larry’s stuff is in there. I take care of everything and make sure it’s just right and everything like that. I sit in the chair, and I don’t move. A couple hours later, the door opens, and in walks Larry Doby. He said, ‘Oh, you must be Mudcat.’ I said, ‘Yes sir, Mr. Doby.’ He said, ‘Do you like television?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, Mr. Doby.’ He said, ‘Which one of these beds would you like? This one?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, Mr. Doby.’ He said, ‘Alright, we are going to have to stop this ‘Yes sir, Mr. Doby’ thing. I said, ‘Yes sir, Mr. Doby.’ That was the beginning of the relationship with Larry Doby.
History is definite. Then again, history is not so definite. You have to go through life now to straighten out some of the things you thought were definite.
I am not disappointed with the fact that—in baseball—when it comes to African American history, everyone knows about Jackie Robinson. Very few of these people know about Larry Doby. Even now, it’s almost like Jackie went through this. When I talk now, it’s not that I’m angry or disappointed, except that I want people to know him for a little part of history that they don’t know. Doby went through the same thing that Jackie went through. Larry went through the same thing. We had to go through the same thing. In Jackie’s case, he had protection.
They wanted me to get involved in a train situation in L.A., where they wanted to recognize Jackie again with a train that went from Pasadena to L.A. They would name it the Jackie Robinson Train. I said, ‘Don’t get me wrong, that’s great; but, I won’t get involved unless they give me a train from Santa Barbara with number 14 on it and put Larry Doby’s name on it.’ When we give you some information on history, it doesn’t mean that we’re mad at anybody.
In Tucson, AZ, all of us had to read in the paper the restaurants that would let us in to eat. That was still happening in those days. To go through that, it was a little bit better when I came in. When we finally got here to Cleveland, he had talked to me about a lot of things. Once we landed, he said, ‘This is the church you’re going to be going to.’ He introduced me to the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church. He even introduced me to the Catholic Church over here. I had the benefit of somebody that came along in his time, but I had it a little bit easier because he told me exactly how life was. I remember he said, ‘There are going to be water fountains that you can’t drink out of the same water fountain.’ And there were. ‘There are going to be some places that you’re not going to be able to stay in the same hotel.’ And there were. He said, ‘But no matter what [happens], when you walk across those white lines on the field, you better win.’ That’s the way it was. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, I feel sorry for myself.’
I am very fortunate because I am a part of history, too. Not in a monumental way like Larry and Jackie were, but a write-off of what they did and what they provided for us. Because of them, I became the first African American pitcher to win 20 games in the American League.
-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor