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House of Representatives votes to give Doby a Congressional Gold Medal

By SABRINA EATON • Jul 11, 2018 at 2:42 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday signed off on legislation that would award a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to Cleveland Indians great Larry Doby, the second African American to join a Major League Baseball team.

The measure sponsored by Wadsworth GOP Rep. Jim Renacci and New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell passed on a non-controversial voice vote.

Doby was only the second African American to join a major league baseball team, after Jackie Robinson, who joined the National League's Brooklyn Dodgers 11 weeks before Doby joined the Indians.

The center fielder spent 12 years in the American League, was voted onto seven all-star teams, and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.

According to the Hall of Fame, Doby and Robinson both suffered indignities after breaking the race barrier, such as being forced to stay in separate hotels from teammates, and not being able to eat in the same restaurants on the road. But teammates eventually grew to accept them.

"Not only did Doby wear an Indians' uniform proudly in the franchise's last World Series win in 1948, but he wore our nation's uniform when he served in the Navy during WWII," said a statement from Renacci.

Congress has awarded over 300 gold medals since the American Revolution to express its appreciation for significant achievements. General George Washington was the first awardee. More recent medals were issued to Robinson, as well as golfer Jack Nicklaus and the Selma-Montgomery Freedom Marchers.

Renacci's office said that legislation to bestow a Congressional Gold Medal must be co-sponsored by two thirds of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate before a committee takes it up.

Doby, who died on June 18, 2003, at age 79, became the second black manager of a baseball team when he was hired by the Chicago White Sox in 1978. The Cleveland Indians' Frank Robinson was the first black manager.

In addition to playing professional baseball, Doby was first black man to play professional basketball in the ABL, the NBA's precursor league. After retiring from baseball, Doby served as director of community relations for the New Jersey Nets.

Pascrell noted that he and Doby share the same hometown — Paterson, New Jersey — and called him a "sports legend, a pioneer of American civil rights, and a man of great service to his country."

"Larry handled adversity with strength and served as an inspiration for minority kids and adults since his landmark introduction to the major league," said a statement from Pascrell.

Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced a similar bill in the U.S. Senate a few days after the House effort was launched.

"Doby has seldom received the credit he deserves and this bill offers a small way to honor all he did for civil rights and America's game," said a statement from Brown, whose Washington, D.C., office contains a replica of the Doby statue at the Indians' Progressive Field.

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