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:
Manager Terry Francona was frustrated by the fact the @CleGuardians were not allowed to wear the No. 14 for their July 5 game, which marked the 76th anniversary of Larry Doby breaking the color barrier in the American League.#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/aW9KQYXAAq
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) July 6, 2023
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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(My thanks to Sean Spitzer for bringing the Francona video to my attention, and to Dan Cichalski for the Instagram post about the Jackals.)