More than a half-century ago, major league baseball wanted no part of Larry Doby.
On a glorious summer Sunday, he received the greatest honor his sport can offer."If someone had told me 52 years ago that I would be standing here being honored by the Hall of Fame, I wouldn't have believed it," Doby said. "I thank God I've lived long enough."
The 74-year-old Doby, the first black to play in the American League, was inducted with former Los Angeles pitcher Don Sutton and three others.
Doby broke in with the Cleveland Indians 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson had broken baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the summer of 1947. Doby was always overshadowed by Robinson, not that it mattered to him.
"When I look back and think about things that were probably negative, you put those things on the back burner," said Doby, who had 253 career homers, 969 RBIs and won two AL home run titles in his 13-year career.
"You're proud and happy that you've been a part of integrating baseball to show people that we can live together, work together, play together, and we can be successful together," he said.
Sutton, the only player elected this year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, thanked the ballplayers, coaches and managers on the five teams he played for in his 23-year pitching career.
He then stared into the audience at his wife, Mary, and their 1-year-old daughter, Jackie, and grappled with the emotion of the moment.
"This is what I've wanted all my life," said Sutton, who won 324 games and struck out 3,574. "But as big as this day is, it was all put into perspective a couple of years ago when she (Jackie) was born 16 weeks early and given a 1-in-100 chance of making it. They said it would take a miracle for her to live, but fortunately she was born to a miracle worker. "Thanks little girl for sticking around to be part of this. You make it perfect," Sutton said. "You've helped remind me of how much more important life is than the things in life, even this. With apologies to Lou Gehrig, I'm the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
Sutton became the 233rd member of the Hall and its 176th player. He was with Los Angeles from 1966-80 and again in 1988, also spending time with the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics and California Angels.
Sutton, 52, was born in a tar-paper shack in Clio, Ala., the son of sharecroppers. He paid a moving tribute to his hard-working father.
"I never knew a day when my dad, Howard Sutton, didn't get up and go to work. Regardless of the conditions, he was there," said Sutton, who never missed a start in his long career because of injury or illness. "He gave me my work ethic. He also told me, `If you're going into baseball, there are going to be a lot of people better than you. Don't ever let anybody outwork you, and I didn't."
Doby was elected in March by the Veterans Committee, which also picked former Negro leagues star "Bullet" Joe Rogan, a pitcher and outfielder for the Kansas City Monarchs; George Davis, a hard-hitting shortstop in the dead ball era who spent most of his career with the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox; and former AL president Lee MacPhail, who joined his father in the Hall.
Also entering the Hall for their media accomplishments were Jaime Jarrin, the Spanish voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the past 40 years, and Sam Lacy.
Lacy, 94, won the Ford C. Frick Award for his pioneering work in baseball journalism. His columns in the 1930s and 1940s were devoted to desegregating the game.
"Let me thank everyone, as they do in the Academy Awards," Lacy said with a devilish smile. "Everybody from great grandmothers to the pet canary."