Larry Doby did not want to be disappointed again.
The last two years, he traveled to Tampa and sat in a nearby hotel room as the Veterans Committee voted new members into the baseball Hall of Fame, hoping and waiting for word that never came.So this time, he stayed away. In fact, he was far away in Southern California, sipping a cup of tea with his wife when, at last, Cooperstown came calling.
Doby, the first black player in the American League, and former AL president Lee MacPhail were elected Tuesday, along with Negro leagues star "Bullet" Joe Rogan and turn-of-the-century shortstop "Gorgeous" George Davis.
"It's a feeling of struggle in the past. It's a feeling of a certain amount of relief," Doby said. "It's a great feeling."
The 13-man Veterans panel did not release its vote totals, though one committee member said Doby was an easy choice.
Doby did not always have it so simple. On July 5, 1947, just 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, Doby joined the Cleveland Indians. Though he would go on to hit .283 with 253 home runs and 969 RBIs in a big league career that lasted through 1959, his initial locker room reception was icy.
"Very tough," Doby recalled. "I'd never faced any circumstances like that. Teammates were lined up and some would greet you and some wouldn't. You could deal with it, but it was hard."
Doby, a seven-time All-Star outfielder, later became the second black manager in the majors, following Frank Robinson. He was also appointed a special assistant to AL president Gene Budig.
"You look back 51 years ago, and you never thought this type of situation would come about," Doby said from the West Coast, where he was visiting former Brooklyn pitcher Don Newcombe.
Doby, 73 and undergoing chemotherapy for a cancerous kidney that was removed in October, plans to be in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 26 for the induction weekend.
MacPhail, 80, remembered attending the Hall ceremonies in 1978 when his father, Larry, was enshrined. They are the first father-son tandem to be so honored.
MacPhail was general manager of the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. He served as AL president from 1974-83, creating his biggest controversy when he overruled umpires to ley George Brett's "pine-tar" homer stand.
"Baseball has been great to our entire family," MacPhail said from Delray Beach, Fla. "Obviously, this is a tremendous feeling, a culmination of a lot of years."
Rogan, who died in 1967, pitched and played infield and outfield for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1920 to 1938. He had a 113-45 record as a pitcher and a .343 lifetime batting average.
Davis, who died in 1940, played from 1890-1909 and batted .295 with 2,667 hits and 1,435 RBIs. In the 1906 World Series, he led the Chicago White Sox with six RBIs in 13 at-bats when they beat the Cubs.