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Francona: MLB Wouldn’t Let Guardians Wear No. 14 for Larry Doby

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Wednesday, July 5, was the 76th anniversary of Cleveland outfielder Larry Doby breaking the American League color barrier in 1947, less than three months after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. As you can see above, Guardians manager Terry Francona marked the occasion by inscribing a “14” on his cap. His bench coach, DeMarlo Hale, did likewise.

But it turns out that Francona had wanted to do a lot more than that. Speaking to reporters after Wednesday night’s game (although his comments weren’t widely reported until yesterday), Francona said the Guardians wanted to have the whole team wearing No. 14, much like the Pirates wear No. 21 on Roberto Clemente Day and all MLB personnel wear No. 42 on Jackie Day, but Major League Baseball wouldn’t allow it.

“I think it’s a shame we can’t do that,” Francona said. “We’ve tried, and it hurts me a little bit. It’s just — man, it’s — it’s just hard to fathom. I’m struggling to fathom — come on, man.”

You can hear Fancona’s full comments here:

The Guardians routinely celebrate the anniversary of Doby’s big league debut. On Wednesday they gave away Doby caps; last year, for the 75th anniversary, they added a commemorative sleeve patch. According to this AP article, they’ve asked to always play at home on July 5, which I hadn’t previously realized.

Ever since players started wearing No. 42 on Jackie Day in 2007, some fans have lobbied for a similar annual tribute to Doby, with all MLB players wearing No. 14 on July 5. Personally, I’ve never liked that idea — there’s only one Jackie Robinson. But if the Guardians want to wear Doby’s number once a year, I’m all in favor of that. And like Francona said, it’s hard to fathom why MLB would put the kibosh on that. Strange.

As noted in yesterday’s Ticker, however, at least one professional ballclub did honor Doby on a team-wide basis on Wednesday. That would be the Frontier League’s New Jersey Jackals, who play in historic Hinchliffe Stadium, where Doby played high school baseball and football. The Jackals wore Newark Eagles Negro League throwbacks on Wednesday, all with Doby’s No. 14 on the back (if the Instagram embed below doesn’t look right for you, as appears to be the case for some readers, look here):


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A post shared by Dan Cichalski (@njbaseball)

(My thanks to Sean Spitzer for bringing the Francona video to my attention, and to Dan Cichalski for the Instagram post about the Jackals.)



Substack Reminder

In case you missed it on Thursday, my Substack article this week is an interview with Emily Morgan, a young graphic designer who’s generated a fair amount of buzz in recent months with her logo-redesign videos. You can read the first part of the article here. To read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber to my Substack (which will also give you access to my full Substack archives). My thanks, as always, for your consideration.



Can of the Day

It’s possible that I’ve featured a can of OK oil before, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen one with this design. There’s something amusing about the huge, dazzling sunburst showcasing the word “OK.”

Comments (33)

    It’s especially asinine because back then the AL and NL were two separate leagues. Don’t was the first African American to play in a lot of AL cities and had to endure a lot of what Robinson experienced. Shame that the Indians can’t celebrate.

    So, say MLB decreed ’14’ to be worn league-wide on July 5. It would be interesting to see the Cubs all donning ’14’, the most sacred of their numbers, and not honoring Ernie Banks.

    Good point! As it turns out, 10 MLB teams (including the Guardians) have retired No. 14: link

    By contrast, when No. 42 was retired a league-wide bases in 1997, the Dodgers were the only team to have retired that number. (Two teams have subsequently retired it, even after it was retired league-wide: the Yankees, for Mariano Rivera, and the Cardinals, for Bruce Sutter.)

    “There’s only one Jackie Robinson.”

    Well, there is only one Larry Doby and he went through everything that Robinson did and possibly more as this column highlights: link

    There is really no excuse for MLB not honoring Doby the same way they do Robinson. But Doby played in Cleveland, not the New York market, and MLB has made it clear that he doesn’t count as much.

    Interesting that MLB wont let the Guardians all wear 14. Back in 2015, on July 12th, the Cubs played the White Sox and the Cubs all wore 14 to Honor Ernie Banks. I guess MLB changed their minds about these things since then (Heres a picture of the video board with the lineup from Wrigley that day link )

    MLB allowed all uniformed members of the Cleveland club to wear #14 for a game in 2007:


    That was the 60th anniversary year (though not the exact date) of Doby’s debut. Could be that MLB didn’t consider this week’s 76th anniversary to be that significant and/or the request was made last-minute?

    I wish the Braves would all wear 44 to honor Hank Aaron for one game each year. It’s great that MLB honors Jackie Robinson each April. Perhaps its time for each team to honor its first black player. For the Braves that would be Sam Jethroe.

    Here we go…
    This is one of the reasons why everyone wearing 42 was a bad idea in the first place. Anyone who thought it would stay a strictly Jackie thing was naive. Now people are clamoring for Aaron, Doby, Clemente… enough is enough.
    As I’ve said ad nauseam, these players deserve special recognition. And they deserve something a lot better than their numbers being unretired every year.
    Wear a big honking patch. Wear a period-appropriate throwback. Have everyone wear the player’s NOB. Do anything other than this ridiculous practice of everyone wearing the same retired number.

    Retired means retired.
    And besides…“there’s only one Jackie Robinson”! MLB’s decision to have hundreds of lesser impact take the field in his number cheapens his legacy a bit, no?

    What would happen if the Guardians just did it anyway? Would they be fined? Would MLB force them to forfeit the game? I can’t imagine MLB would want that PR nightmare.

    I know it would be very unlikely to happen (just because a team probably doesn’t want to get into a fight with the league office in general), but as a thought experiment, I wonder what would happen if a team went rogue and tried something like that without permission.

    Your OK Motor Oil can reminds me of the beautiful blue, yellow, and red circular “OK” Used Car signs that used to be found at Chevrolet car lots.

    Certainly makes sense not to have a league wide wearing of Doby’s number, like they do with Jackie. Jackie broke the color barrier in the majors, he was the first in either league. Doby is still incredibly significant, and certainly at the very least it makes sense to let Cleveland wear his number.
    Ultimately Cleveland should just do it, and if MLB doesn’t like it, let them issue a fine and see how well that goes over publicly.

    Unless he’s going to take the field, I see no need for him to wear a uniform. We don’t ask football coaches to wear shoulder pads and helmets or basketball coaches to wear shorts.

    I’m all in favor of Francona in a smart suit, then. Go full Connie Mack. No more slovenly hoodies, please.

    I mean, technically, the manager DOES take the field…. when he takes the ball from the pitcher during a pitching change. I think I remember reading somewhere that Mack always had someone else do the pitching changes, which is part of why he didn’t wear the uniform, and wore a suit instead. I don’t disagree though, that it’s probably time to set something wear managers either wear the uniform and a number, or wear regular pants with their hoodie/warmup jacket/raincoat.
    I’d love to see coaches go back to wearing suits myself. Too many of them look like slobs.

    Jeez, baseball allows all kinds of uniform abominations, but they won’t allow a classy tribute like this?

    Get over yourself, MLB.

    This is so sad. The Indians were in the AL and back then it was 2 separate leagues. MLB will allow all these ugly city connects but not this. Sad

    Not honoring Larry Doby because “there’s only one Jackie Robinson” may be one of the worst sports takes of all time. They should be honored equally throughout the league.

    As a few have pointed out, Doby went through a lot as well, and since the leagues were separate at the time, he was the only black player seen by fans in AL cities for a while. I would love to see baseball retire the number 14 _in the American League only_. Yes, Jackie broke the color line in baseball as a whole, but had Doby not come along that July, half the league wouldn’t have seen a black face on the diamond for a while longer.

    Not to diminish Doby’s break-through(and what he endured), but 5 of the 8 AL teams shared a market…so by the time he made it to the bigs, Robinson had played in all NL cities.
    As far as retiring #14 for him in just the AL or throughout MLB – sorry, but no.

    I think every player on every team should wear 14 for the entire week or something. Maybe the entire month. That would be really cool.

    I don’t understand why MLB has a problem with the Guardians wearing 14 for one game.

    Tune in next time for another episode of “As The Ratchet Turns”…

    Since Manfred could make a quick buck on #14 merch in the MLB store, I’m shocked he didn’t go for it.

    I was going to suggest that Cleveland have a permanent memorial patch for Doby (the one shown in an earlier post was beautiful, minus the 75). But then I realized this would interfere with an ad patch. Silly me.

    You want to honor the man? The black player percentage is down to 6 percent in Major League Baseball. Raise that percentage, and he will be honored.

    So what if any team wants to honor an important player by everybody wearing the same number during a game? Does it mess up the game that much? No, as the rules remain the same. Play ball!

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