Dickson: My favorite player, Larry Doby

From SABR member Paul Dickson at The National Pastime Museum on February 17, 2014:

The summer I turned eight years of age, my interest in baseball was focused primarily on getting my little mitts on a real glove—a Spalding five-fingered pancake, which with the proper grooming and care would develop a deep enough pocket so that when I threw a ball into it, it would make a great thwacking noise.

On my birthday—July 30, 1947—I got my glove, and work began on the glove pocket that very month. This was the same month that Larry Doby followed Jackie Robinson by 11 weeks in breaking baseball’s long-standing, but unwritten, color barrier. Robinson broke through with Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League, and Doby with Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians of the American League.

These events were little more than a curiosity to me at the time. I had to learn about them in increments, but first I had to become a Cleveland Indians fan—not an easy feat for a kid from South Yonkers, hailing distance of both Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. My great-grandfather Phil had been a business partner of Charles Ebbets, so there was also pressure to pull for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In early 1950 my father took me to the Concord Hotel in the Catskills where Buster Crabbe was the swimming pro. Crabbe and my father had become friends when my father had traveled with the 1928 U.S. Olympic swimming team as an assistant to the team manager.

Crabbe had won a bronze medal in 1928, a gold in 1932, and went on to star in Hollywood serials and features playing Tarzan, Buck Rodgers, and Flash Gordon. My father, a banker, helped Crabbe with his taxes, which got my dad a weekend at the Concord. I tagged along and met the man I called Mr. Crabbe, but I always saw him as Flash Gordon battling his archenemy Ming the Merciless. Mr. Crabbe asked me if I wanted to meet his friend “Flip,” a professional baseball player who was visiting the Concord that weekend.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/my-favorite-player-larry-doby

Originally published: February 18, 2014. Last Updated: February 18, 2014.