On Opening Day, Pascrell Leads Bill to Honor Baseball Legend, Civil Rights Pioneer Larry Doby
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Jim Renacci (R-OH) led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in introducing legislation to honor Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League, with the Congressional Gold Medal. The lawmakers are cosponsoring the Larry Doby Congressional Gold Medal Act to posthumously honor Doby for his career and contributions to American major league athletics, civil rights, and the armed forces. They are apart of a bipartisan, bicameral group including U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC).
“When you grow up in Paterson, New Jersey, you can’t escape the legend of Larry Doby. I’m not just talking about on the field, but civil rights pioneer, public servant, and community devotee,” said Rep. Pascrell, who authored the law naming a Paterson Post Office after Mr. Doby. “We should all look to the legacy of leadership that Larry left behind. The progress Larry fought for did not come easy, and the least we as the Congress can do is to bestow this honor recognizing Larry Doby as a truly great American.”
“I am grateful for what Larry Doby did to the sport and our country and am pleased I could be a small part of remembering his legacy,” said Renacci.
“Larry Doby seldom receives credit for his role in integrating all of professional baseball and it’s past time to honor his contributions to both civil rights and America’s game,” said Brown, who displays in his Washington, D.C. office a replica of the statue of Doby that stands at Progressive Field. “Doby’s heroism surpasses his remarkable skill – he overcame discrimination and hostility to break barriers, leading Cleveland to victory and moving our country in the right direction.”
“As the first player to integrate the American League, Larry Doby played an instrumental role in our country’s civil rights movement,” said Booker. “His perseverance through adversity inspired a generation and made a lasting impact on American history. And long after his baseball career was over, he continued to serve his community in New Jersey. The Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting recognition for an individual who helped change our national pastime and our country for the better.”
“The game of baseball has a long and storied history in Ohio and Feller, Thome, Bench, Rose, and Larkin are household names throughout our state. No one person did more to change the game, however, than Larry Doby,” said Portman. “As the first African American player in the American League, Larry Doby broke down barriers with his remarkable skill and competitive spirit and forever changed the game of baseball. Through sheer determination, Doby became a symbol for the fight for equality in our country, and encouraged thousands of Ohioans and kids across our country to push the boundaries of what they thought possible. I join my colleagues in urging the Senate to honor the life and legacy of Larry Doby.”
“It is fitting that the pride of Paterson, N.J., and a man who helped change America's game forever and shape the course of our nation's civil rights be awarded the highest civilian honor Congress has to offer,” said Menendez. “On behalf of all of the people of New Jersey and every American, it is a privilege to honor Larry Doby’s life and legacy.”
“Being the ‘first’ to break through barriers is often a responsibility that is met with enormous sacrifice and perseverance,” said Scott. “These are individuals who risk it all to pave a different, brighter future for countless generations, and why trailblazers like South Carolina native Larry Doby deserve to be recognized for taking the first step that has opened the door to so many. Doby’s contribution to Major League Baseball, the Civil Rights movement, and his service to our nation will forever be etched in our country’s history.”
Major League Base Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum support the bill.
In one of his first acts upon coming to Congress in 1997, Rep. Pascrell sponsored legislation in Congress (H.R. 2116) designating the post office at 194 Ward Street in Paterson as the Larry Doby Post Office, which was signed by President Bill Clinton and became Public Law 105-162. In 2012, the United States Postal Service released a commemorative postage stamp with Larry Doby’s likeness. Pascrell joined the USPS for a ceremony to unveil the stamp at the Larry Doby Post Office.
Congressional Gold Medal
The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded by an act of Congress and requires two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate to cosponsor before the legislation can be considered in Committee or by the full House. Congressional Gold Medals have a long history in the U.S. Congress with the first medal being awarded in 1776 to George Washington. Since then, Congress has authorized over 300 medals to be awarded. Jackie Robinson received his Congressional Gold Medal in 2003.
Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby was an extraordinary individual and a sports legend that broke through racial barriers by becoming the first African American to play professional baseball in the American League. Upon his honorable discharge from the United States Navy in 1946, Larry Doby played baseball in the Negro League for the Newark Eagles. In 1947, his contract was purchased by the Cleveland Indians where he began his illustrious 13 year career in the American League. After appearing in 1,533 games and batting .283, with 253 home runs and 969 runs batted in, and being voted to seven all-star teams, Larry Doby was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
In addition to being the first African American to hit a home run in a World Series, Larry Doby was deeply committed to his community. In expression of this profound commitment, Larry served as the Director of Community Relations for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. This position granted Larry the opportunity to leverage his character and stature to participate in and influence youth in many of New Jersey’s inner cities.