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Pascrell Hails Awarding of Congressional Gold Medal to Civil Rights Pioneer Larry Doby

Highest congressional honor for Paterson icon signed into law

Washington, December 17, 2018 | Mark Greenbaum (1 (202) 225-5751)

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) celebrated the signing into law of H.R. 1861, awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Larry Doby, a star baseball player who helped break the Major League Baseball color barrier.

“Paterson’s favorite son, Larry Doby, will finally be given the recognition from the United States government he has long deserved,” said Rep. Pascrell, who also sponsored legislation naming the Ward Street Paterson Post Office for Doby in 1997, and unveiled a U.S. Postal Service stamp honoring Doby in 2011. “What Larry faced would have broken most men and women. Unspeakable racism, threats of violence, and shunning from even his teammates. But he endured because of unshakable courage and incredible character. And through his strength American civil rights were advanced forward. Larry Doby was a great man and a hero. Thank you to my coauthor, Rep. Jim Renacci, as well as to Senators Sherrod Brown, Rob Portman, Cory Booker, and Bob Menendez, and the hundreds of members of the House and Senate that helped make this honor a reality. I can’t wait for Larry’s family to accept the Congressional Gold Medal in the Capitol Rotunda next year.”

Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby (1923-2003) broke through racial barriers by becoming the first African American to play professional baseball in the American League. Doby served in the United States Navy in the Pacific during World War II. Upon his honorable discharge in 1946, Doby played baseball in the Negro League for the Newark Eagles, taking groundballs as an infielder at the old Ruppert Stadium, and nearby at Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey.

In 1947, Doby’s contract was purchased by the Cleveland Indians shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League. Doby played his first Major League game on July 5, appearing as a pinch hitter in a Saturday game at Comiskey Field against the Chicago White Sox.

That game would mark the start of a remarkable career. Appearing in 1,533 games as a player, Doby was an excellent hitter, batting .283, with 253 home runs and 969 runs batted in. Despite coming up as a second baseman and shortstop, Doby would excel in the field as a center fielder, setting an American League outfielder record for 164 consecutive errorless games. Over a 13-year career, Doby was voted to seven All-Star squads. After his playing career, Doby became the manager of the White Sox in 1978, just the second black Major League club manager. 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 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.

H.R. 1861 is sponsored by Reps. Renacci and Pascrell and 293 of their House colleagues. Companion legislation in the Senate, S. 802, is sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Tim Scott (R-SC) and 67 other cosponsors.

Congressman Pascrell first sponsored a bill (H.R. 5621) to award a gold medal to Doby in 2016 during the 114th Congress.

The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded by an act of Congress and requires two-thirds of the House of Representatives to cosponsor before the legislation can be considered in Committee or by the full House. Congressional Gold Medals have a long history in the Congress, with the first medal being awarded in 1776 to George Washington. Since then, Congress has authorized over 300 medals to be awarded. Color-barrier breaking athletes have been similarly recognized as Doby; Jackie Robinson received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2003.

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 into law. Rep. Pascrell also attended the ceremony inducting Larry Doby into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. He authored a concurrent resolution in 2003 that passed the Congress posthumously celebrating Doby’s life and achievements. Pascrell further unveiled a postage stamp memorializing Doby with the United States Postal Service in 2011 at the Larry Doby Post Office in Paterson.

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