When Cleveland’s Larry Doby and Satchel Paige became the first African-Americans to win a World Series
The rookies helped lead the Indians past the Boston Braves in six games in 1948
For much of Larry Doby’s baseball career, he came in second to someone else. When the Cleveland Indians signed Doby in July 1947, he broke the color barrier in the American League after Jackie Robinson was the first to do so in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Doby became the second black manager in the big leagues in 1978 after Frank Robinson broke the seal four years earlier.
But not all of Doby’s achievements followed another black player. In his rookie season, Doby and pitcher Satchel Paige became the first African-Americans to win a World Series as the Indians defeated the Boston Braves in six games. That also happens to be the last time Cleveland won the Fall Classic.
Doby and Paige weren’t the first black players to play in a World Series. That distinction is held by Robinson and Dan Bankhead, who were members of the National League champion Dodgers in 1947 but ended up losing a memorable World Series against their Bronx counterparts, the New York Yankees, in seven games.
Doby converted from a second baseman to center field after leaving the Negro League’s Newark Eagles to join Cleveland. Paige signed later that season to become the first African-American pitcher in the American League and the oldest rookie at age 42.
Doby was a nightmare for opposing pitchers, as he hit 14 homers, 23 doubles and 9 triples, drove in 66 runs and had a batting average of .301 in 121 games. In the World Series, Doby hit a home run in Cleveland’s 2-1 win in Game 4 and finished with two RBIs on 7-of-22 batting for the series.
After the game, a photo of Doby and Cleveland’s winning pitcher, Steve Gromek, hugging one another and smiling from ear-to-ear lit up newspapers.
“That picture went out all over the country,” Doby told The New York Times in 1987. “I think it was one of the first, if not the first, of a black guy and white guy hugging, just happy because they won a ballgame.”
Paige, conversely, was a nightmare for opposing batters, as he had a 2.48 ERA in seven starts and 21 games total. He finished the second half of the season 6-1 with three complete games. In Game 5 of the World Series, Paige pitched two-thirds of an inning, getting the final two outs in the seventh inning. The first out was a fly ball that Doby fielded in center field.
“Even with me going on 42, the way I was throwing, I felt I was too young to take any cut in pay,” Paige wrote in his autobiography, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever. “After 22 years of throwing, I was going to get a crack at the major leagues.”
The Indians clinched the title with a 4-3 victory in Game 6 on Oct. 11, 1948.
An earlier version stated Doby was signed in 1948. He was signed in July 1947.