Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-06-20 08:39
by Alex Belth


Bill Madden , Dave Anderson and Terry Pluto all have appreciations of Larry Doby in the papers this morning. The New York guys note Doby's friendship with Yogi Berra:

"I lost my pal," Berra said, his eyes watery. "I knew this was coming, but even so, you're never ready for it. I'd call him and he'd say he didn't feel like talking, so I knew then it was bad."

..."Other than (Indians second baseman) Joe Gordon, who befriended me right away, I felt very alone," Doby said. "Nobody really talked to me. The guy who probably talked to me most back then was Yogi, every time I'd go to bat against the Yankees. I thought that was real nice, but after awhile I got tired of him asking me how my family was when I was trying to concentrate up there."

"I know at least one time I didn't interrupt his concentration," Berra recalled now with a smile. "The time he hit that homer to center field in the old Yankee Stadium. He was the first guy to ever hit one there."

Actually, according to research, the homer Doby hit over the 430-foot sign in the old Yankee Stadium off the Yankees' Bob Porterfield in May of 1949 was the second recorded to have hit that spot. Lou Gehrig also hit one there off Grover Cleveland Alexander in the 1928 World Series.

"All I know," said Berra, "is that I called the pitch and it was the wrong one."

Compared with Jackie Robinson, Doby is often seen as reserved, and shy, but that didn't mean he didn't have feelings---even bitterness, about the racism he and the other black and latin players endured in baseball. Here is a quote that I found from a 1968 Sports Illustrated article about race and sports:

"You know those junkyards along the highways in Jersey? Well they have scrap heaps just like that for athletes---most of them black. Black athletes are cattle. They're raised, fed, sold and killed...Baseball moved me toward the front of the bus, and it let me ride there as long as I could run. And then it told me to get off at the back door."

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