Fans flock to Camden as Larry Doby stamp unveiled

07/26/2012 12:00 AM

07/27/2012 12:40 PM

Correction: This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. July 27 to indicate the Doby was the first - but not only - South Carolinian inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ben Taylor and Jim Rice, both of Anderson joined him in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

There were a lot of firsts for baseball great and Camden native Larry Doby.

First African-American to break the color barrier in the American League in 1947. First African-American to hit a home run in a World Series. First South Carolinian inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

While Doby will go down in the history books for such achievements, for many years his career was overshadowed by that other baseball legend, Jackie Robinson, who entered the National League just 11 weeks before Doby joined the American League in 1947.

But to see the packed room Thursday at the Camden Archives and Museum, it was clear that Doby is tops in the hearts and minds of many South Carolinians.

Fans, elected officials and members of Doby’s immediate and extended family gathered at a ceremony, presented by the U.S. Postal Service, to unveil a new postage stamp in honor of the man known for his quiet, and dignified nature, even in the face of the racism he sometimes confronted.

Doby, who died in 2003, is one of four baseball greats featured on the postal service’s new Major League All-Stars Forever stamps. The others are Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Stargell.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Doby’s second youngest daughter, Kimberly Doby, of the crush of people who came to the event, many of whom just wanted to shake the hand of one of Doby’s children.

To her, the Cleveland Indians All-Star was “just Dad.”

“I still can’t believe the same guy who used to yell at me to shovel the snow is now on a stamp,” she said.

One of five children, Kimberly Doby now resides in Charlotte but relates how when she and her siblings were younger, they hardly knew of their father’s career as a trailblazer and phenomenal baseball player.

“My dad never even told me he was going to get voted into the Hall of Fame,” she said. “So later when we found out, I said, ‘This is a big deal.’”

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, who introduced the legislation to have highway signs honoring Doby placed around Kershaw County in 2002, said he grew up not knowing who the baseball great was.

“The more I learned (about Doby), the more I thought it was appropriate that we honor a man of greatness, who came from our community who we are very proud to call our own,” Sheheen told the crowd.

Sheheen said Doby exemplified the best both in athletes and in successful figures in the country’s history.

“It’s an all-American story and an all-American dream,” he said. “You have a young boy growing up poor in a small, Southern town that was segregated, and from something within and what he learned from his family, he achieved greatness.”

Camden natives and South Carolinians turned out for the ceremony, which also included former New York Yankee and University of South Carolina baseball coach Bobby Richardson of Sumter.

Richardson, who served as USC’s coach from 1970 to 1976, told those gathered he and Doby “go way back.”

“Larry was very conscious of the fact that young people across the country were looking up to him,” Richardson said. “So I’m grateful there’s a stamp in his honor that will indeed go across the country.”

Sherry Seward, who is a stamp collector and baseball fan, said she wanted to attend Thursday’s event for both reasons.

“He didn’t let anything hold him back,” she said of Doby. “He just went with that talent.”

Seward, who waited in a long line after the unveiling to buy a sheet of stamps, also was impressed with Doby’s life story, having lived largely unrecognized until later, when his peers elected him to baseball’s Hall of Fame, in 1998.

“It’s not who you are or where you come from,” she said. “It’s what you can do and what you leave with someone else.”

Doby died at his home in Montclair, N.J., in 2003, at the age of 79.

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