He was the first player to go directly from the Negro Leagues to Major League Baseball. His struggles as the first black player in the American League are sometimes overlooked by the focus on Jackie Robinson but they were every bit as real. The vast majority of his Cleveland teammates were chilly at best in those early days. On the field, he struggled too, in the beginning, anyway but eventually he became a seven-time All-Star. Seventy years to the day after he broke the AL color barrier, here’s a look at five Larry Doby baseball cards that should be welcome in any collection.
1949 Bowman Rookie Card
While he did appear on a couple of Indians team issue photo packs in 1947 and ’48, Larry Doby has two official rookie cards: one issued by Leaf and this one. While some consider the Leaf a 1948 issue, the set actually wasn’t released until 1949 and the Bowman is actually a better looking card than its more expensive rival. The ’49 Bowman is still a challenge, though.
Compared to Jackie Robinson’s Leaf rookie, the Doby is still a huge bargain and you can usually find a few that won’t cost a huge stack of cash.
Doby led the American League in runs (104), homers (32) and slugging percentage (.541) in 1952. His 1952 Topps card isn’t from the scarce series, but is criminally underrated considering his place in the game and the iconic nature of the set. It’s the first Topps card of the first black player in the American League–a Hall of Famer–but you can own a pretty respectable copy for $100–or less.
1954 Dan Dee
Dan Dee was a snack maker in Cleveland and in 1954, the company created a 29-card set distributed through its bags of potato chips. As a member of the Tribe, Doby was a natural to be included. It was also his greatest power season as he led the league in homers and RBI in helping Cleveland win 111 games and earn a trip to the World Series where they were surprisingly swept by the Giants.
Doby’s Dan Dee card is a great representation of a player in his prime and the image is a great one. While high-grade examples can by very pricey, you can own a decent one for much less.
Doby was traded to the White Sox in 1956 and while his career began to decline, perhaps his best looking baseball card rolled off the presses in ’57. He’s wearing the White Sox road flannel in the photo and the image is a gorgeous sunlit shot of Doby taking a cut for the camera. Stunning–and most are $25 or less.
2001 Fleer Greats of the Game Autograph
Doby died in 2003 at age 80 but he did have a few autograph cards in modern era products. The design of the second Fleer Greats of the Game autograph insert is simple and Doby’s photo is black and white but to own a signed card of such an important figure from baseball history at prices like these is a no brainer.