Quick Take

    Super Bowl XXXVII is history. Iíve always maintained that offense in football is pretty, but defense wins. That is obviously a generalization, but a valid one. The #1 defensive team in the NFL, Tampa Bay, hammered the #1 offensive team in the league, Oakland, on defense (and offense). The bottom line to this story is that I should have had a talk with myself about the merits of defense because I actually thought Oakland would win the game. Thatís how much I know.

Story of the Week

LARRY DOBY

    My hero, Jackie Robinson, came close to not being the first black to play major league baseball. In August, 1947, four months after Jackie had broken the National Leagueís color line, Larry Doby was signed for the Cleveland Indians by Bill Veeck, the quintessential showman in the history of baseball, and was the first black player in the American League.

    1948 was Larry Dobyís first full season in the league. Doby had to endure, obviously, the same prejudicial situations that Robinson lived with. The primary difference was the fact that Robinson did, to be sure, get more publicity because he was first in line for this assault wave.

    In that first full season, 1948, Larry Doby hit 16 home runs, and batted .301 as the Cleveland Indians won the American League pennant and the World Series. During the Series, he batted .318, and actually won the fourth game with a titanic home run off Boston Braves star pitcher, Johnny Sain. A fact that always impressed me about Doby is that, in 1950, he was named the best center fielder in major league baseball by the Sporting News, being acknowledged for his defensive talent over such notables as Joe DiMaggio and Duke Snider.

    In 1952, Doby led the AL with 32 home runs, 104 runs, and a .541 slugging percentage. These numbers pale when compared to todayís stats, but donít lose sight of the fact that the balls then were not "juiced", the pitching quality then was far greater as there were many fewer teams, the parks were bigger then, etc. (As you know from former articles Iíve done, comparing todayís stats to those of yesteryear is a major charade.)

    Larry Doby played in every All-Star Game from 1949 through 1954, hitting a key homer as a pinch-hitter in his last All-Star at-bat in the Indiansí 1954 record-setting 111-win season. His 32 homers and 126 runs batted in led the AL.

    After his major league playing career, he played in Japan and coached for the Montreal Expos, the Cleveland Indians, and the Chicago White Sox. He managed the White Sox in 1978.

    Although Dobyís lifetime stats are not necessarily prolific, like Jackie Robinson (he was 28), Doby came up to the majors at a reasonably late age as rookies go; he was 25 in 1948. But he did amass a lifetime batting average of .283 with 253 home runs and 969 runs batted in. That does not include the prodigious clout he drilled in the 1948 World Series as noted above.

    Larry Doby was a pioneer against racial abuse in major league baseball as he established himself as the quality player he was. Doby, in 1998, was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

Last Weekís Trivia

    What pitcher won almost half his teamís games one season, had a record of 27-10, started 41 games, completed 30 of them, compiled a 1.97 ERA, pitched eight shutouts, pitched 346 innings, and registered 310 Kís. In 1972, Steve Carlton did it for the Philadelphia Phillies. I can make a case for Carlton being the greatest left-hander of all time, but if he isnít, he is certainly in the top four.

Trivia Question of the Week

    Where did Wayne Gretzky make his professional debut? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.