Abstract

"For Larry Doby," sportswriter Cleveland Jackson wrote, "it took but a few short minutes to walk up to that plate. But for 13 million American Negroes that simple action was the successful climax of a long uphill fight whose annals are like the saga of the race." Like Jackie Robinson, who integrated baseball three months prior with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Doby, the first African American player in the American League, gave black Americans optimism that individual talent could trump racism. But, unlike Robinson, Doby failed in his debut. His struggles struck up a conversation about race and democracy. Was economic integration about tokenism or talent? Merit or minstrelsy? Reverse racism or affirmative action? Would black workers unfairly take away work from white men? After a year of hard work and humility, however, Doby succeeded. For both races in Cleveland, he became a symbol for American democracy and opportunity. In the end, Doby’s first year in the big leagues is a story about white patience, black work ethic, and racial redemption.

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