Thursday, September 29, 2011

Newest custom: 1972 Larry Doby

I had planned to work on some custom cards while I was in the hospital for my knee replacement, but between being whacked out on painkillers the first couple of days, and rehab therapy the next few days, I never opened my computer.

Nevertheless, I have now finished my latest custom card, a 1972-style card of Larry Doby as an Expos coach.

I really enjoy seeing guys from my baseball cards of the 1950s-1960s (or earlier) as they would have appeared in the 1970s or 1980s as coaches, often in the uniform of teams other than those for whom they played.

I was never a particular Larry Doby fan during his playing days. No doubt as the first black player in the American League he endured many of the same hardships that Jackie Robinson did in the N.L.

Reflect, however, on the fact that Doby went directly from the Negro Leagues' Newark Eagles to the Cleveland Indians in July, 1947, just 11 weeks after Robinson's debut. Doby didn't have the benefit of a season of integrated baseball in the minor leagues of Organized Baseball that Robinson had.

Doby also didn't enjoy the instant success that Robinson had as a major leaguer. With the Indians in 1947, Doby hit just .156 in 29 games, striking out in 11 of his 32 at-bats. He also bounced around the Cleveland infield, playing at first base, second base and shortstop. 

Both Doby and Indians' owner Bill Veeck must have spent the off-season second-guessing their decision. That all became moot in 1948, however, as the Indians moved Doby to center field and he hit .301 to help clinch the A.L. pennant, then led all Indians' regulars, batting .318 to beat the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series.

Doby batted only .125 in the Indians' 1954 Series loss to the N.Y. Giants, and, while he was a member of the 1959 Chicago White Sox for a couple of months in mid-season, he had been released to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League before the Go-Go Sox won the pennant and World Series.

Doby was one of the first former major leaguers to play pro ball in Japan, spending the 1962 season with the Chunichi Dragons of the Central League at the age of 38.

Continuing his international tour of pro baseball, Doby joined the Montreal Expos' organization in 1969 as a scout and minor league batting instructor. After managing Zulia in the Venezuela League in the winter of 1970-71, he joined the big club at Montreal as a coach, 1971-73.

While I could have chosen any style from 1971-73 for my Doby custom coach card, I ruled out '73 because he appeared in the regular Topps set that year as one of the coaches on manager Gene Mauch's card. Choosing the 1972 format over the 1971 style was really just a coin toss. Doing a '71 would have theoretically required having to dig up a second photo of Doby as an Expos coach to use on the back.

I'm OK with my choices on this one.

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