Tribe asks permission to honor AL trailblazer Doby

Updated: May 10, 2007, 6:13 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Jackie Robinson's 42 isn't the only number with special meaning to the Cleveland Indians.

Less than three months after Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Larry Doby made his debut for the Indians, becoming the AL's first black player.

Doby played 10 seasons for Cleveland, and the Hall of Famer's No. 14 was retired by the team on July 3, 1994 -- 47 years after he was signed by owner Bill Veeck.

Now that baseball has saluted Robinson's 60th anniversary, the Indians have asked Major League Baseball for permission to have their players wear Doby's No. 14 on July 5 in Detroit to commemorate the six decades since he bravely battled prejudice.

Team spokesman Bart Swain said while the club awaits word from MLB, it is planning to honor Doby during the team's Hall of Fame weekend at Jacobs Field when the New York Yankees are in town Aug. 10-12.

"I don't think a lot of people know who Larry Doby is. I watched a documentary on him about a month ago and found out who he was. Hopefully the league will let us do it because he's someone who needs to be honored."
-- Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia

Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia, outfielder Grady Sizemore and second baseman Josh Barfield all wore Robinson's No. 42 in Sunday's 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Sabathia would love a chance to take part in a similar tribute to Doby, a six-time All-Star who died in 2003.

"I don't think a lot of people know who Larry Doby is," Sabathia said. "I watched a documentary on him about a month ago and found out who he was. Hopefully the league will let us do it because he's someone who needs to be honored."

Unlike Robinson, who played in the Dodgers' minor league organization, Doby was signed by the Indians and put in their lineup two days later. In 1950, he led the AL with 32 homers and 126 RBIs.

Doby's story is often overshadowed by Robinson's struggle.

"I'm not fully aware of everything he did," Sizemore said. "I talked to some of the guys today about having Larry Doby Day, or we should wear his number because of what he did. It would be something nice.

"It would add just that much more to the game for what he did for this organization."

Although Doby's number is displayed on a wall inside Jacobs Field, Sabathia wasn't fully aware of what it represented.

"Not a lot of people know that he was the first player in the American League," he said. "As a kid, I never heard his name. Coming here and getting a chance to know what he represented and what he went through is definitely an honor for me."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press