Larry Doby signs contract with Tribe owner Bill Veeck for $5,000, breaks AL color barrier
When Clevelanders picked up the July 4, 1947 Plain Dealer readers were greeted with the headlines, “Doby Believes He Will Make Grade as Infielder with Tribe” and “Larry Can Make Big Hit With Bat: Fans Approve Purchase of Doby; Rickey Applauds Veeck’s Move in Bringing up Infielder.” Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was quoted: “If Doby is a good player, and I understand that he is, the Cleveland club is showing signs that it wants to win.”
On that same day, Doby played his final game as a member of the Newark Eagles of the Negro League. Smacking his 14th home run of the season, Doby left a lasting impression. His teammates presented him with a travel bag and a gift of cash in honor of his call to the Major Leagues.
After the game, Doby and Louis Jones, a member of the Indians public relations staff, boarded a train for Chicago. On July 5, Doby and Indians Owner Bill Veeck met in the General Manager’s office at Comiskey Park to hammer out the details of Doby’s contract. For $5,000 and a promise of $1,000 more if he was still with the team 30 days after signing, Larry Doby was officially a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Later that day, Doby stepped into the batter’s box against the Chicago White Sox and officially broke the color barrier in the American League. Playing in front of 14,655 fans at Comiskey Park, Doby pinch hit for pitcher Bryan Stephens in the top of the seventh inning, with one out and runners on second and third. Having just missed extra bases when he drove a foul ball down the line, Doby worked the count to 2-2 before striking out.
Doby’s at-bat was not a sign of things to come. His Major League baseball career lasted the better part of 13 years as a player and one season as a manager. Doby was enshrined into the Indians and National Baseball Hall of Fame, and in 1994 the Tribe retired his number 14.
-TribeVibe contributor Jeremy Feador