Corcoran: Remember the players who broke the color barrier for the other 15 MLB teams

From Cliff Corcoran at on April 15, 2014:

Tuesday marks the 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first major league game, when he broke Major League Baseball’s color line as he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. But the actual process of integrating the two major leagues was long and regrettably slow. It wasn’t until 12 years after Robinson’s debut, and three years after his retirement, that the last of baseball’s 16 original franchises in the modern era was finally integrated.

In acknowledgement of Robinson’s anniversary, and to illustrate the notable debuts made by players who are often lost to history, here is look back at the players who followed in his footsteps by integrating the other 15 major league teams that were around when Robinson debuted.

Larry Doby, Cleveland Indians, July 5, 1947

At a time when there was no interaction between the leagues outside of the All-Star Game and World Series, Doby broke the American League’s color line just 81 days after Robinson debuted in the National League. Doby’s importance to the success of integration has been unfairly overshadowed by the deserving celebration of Robinson. However, it is fair to say that Doby’s impact on the field wasn’t truly felt until the following season. Whereas Robinson took the field as part of the Dodgers’ starting lineup on Opening Day and in all but three games thereafter that season for the NL champions, Doby debuted as a seventh-inning pinch-hitter in a midseason game, striking out in place of Cleveland pitcher Bryan Stephens, and drew just one start on the season, that coming on July 6. Primarily a pinch-hitter, Doby hit a mere .156 in 29 games, appearing in the field in just six of them.

In 1948, however, he was Cleveland’s Opening Day rightfielder and hit .301/.384/.490 in 121 games for a pennant-winning Indians team. He would make the All-Star team in each of the next seven seasons and ultimately join Robinson in the Hall of Fame.

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Originally published: April 15, 2014. Last Updated: April 15, 2014.