Larry Doby was a trail-blazing player that is often overlooked by baseball historians and collectors who instead focus on other players who made the jump from the Negro Leagues to the MLB. These key Larry Doby cards will illustrate why he should be collected and where you should start in building a top-notch collection.
Larry Doby debuted with the Newark Eagles in the Negro League and was teammates with Monte Irvin on the championship team in 1946. The next season, Doby would join the Cleveland Indians and become the first African-American player in the American League. Just one season later, he, along with teammate Satchel Paige, would become the first African American to win the World Series.
Doby was also a multi-sport athlete and basketball was his other passion. He briefly played professional basketball in the American Basketball League (ABL) with the Paterson Crescents, becoming the league's first African-American player. After his retirement from baseball, Doby worked for the New Jersey Nets as their director of communications.
In total, Larry Doby was a seven-time All-Star and was the American League home-run leader two times. After playing stints with the Indians, Chicago White Sox, and Detroit Tigers, he was a trail-blazer again in 1962 when he become one of the first Americans to play professionally in Japan.
Along with being the second African American in the majors, Doby was also the second African-American manager (Frank Robinson being the first). He took over as manager of the Chicago White Sox after Bob Lemon was fired during the 1978 season. Unfortunately, Doby doesn't have a Topps card from his managerial career, however, he does make appearances in both the 1973 and 1974 Topps sets when he was the batting coach for the Montreal Expos.
Many of Larry Doby's first baseball card appearances were in some of the most sought-after sets and several of them are extremely expensive. Thankfully, collectors who are happy with a reprint can find many of Doby's classic cards reprinted in the late 1990s and early 2000s. An unexpected inclusion in 2014 Topps Archives finds a Doby card featuring the 1986 Topps design.
Given their historical relevance to the sport, Larry Doby and Jackie Robinson are forever intertwined and you can find several cards showcasing both players. Look to 2001 Topps Chrome for a combo card of the pair and 2015 Topps Stadium Club for a great card of the two comparing their bats.
Composing a comprehensive top ten list is a balancing act and when constructing Doby's list, card value is a key component. However, value is weighed against the accessibility and other factors, such as design and historical significance.
Top 10 Larry Doby Baseball Cards
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You know you are in for a great group when Doby's 1954 Topps card kicks things off. 1954 Topps combined a large color photograph with a smaller black-and-white image on the front. It would prove to be Topps' last oversized set with a vertical orientation as 1957 Topps brought back the vertical design but with the now-standard 2-1/2" by 3-1/2" size.
The back of Larry Doby's 1954 Bowman card reminds us that he never played in the minor leagues for the Indians. Unlike Jackie Robinson, who spent a year with the Brooklyn Dodger's minor league team in Montreal, Doby simply made his debut with the Indians without playing for any of their developmental teams. This card is also his final appearance on a Bowman baseball card.
A majestic Doby surveys the infield on his 1953 Bowman Color card. Bowman included statistics for the first time in this set and his stats show he led the American League in home runs in 1952 with 32 dingers. Fair-graded copies of this card are definitely budget friendly and an ideal place to start for new collectors.
"The Destruction Crew" is a great nickname for the power-hitting Cleveland Indians outfield. Larry Doby shares this 1959 Topps card with teammates Minnie Minoso and Rocky Colavito and it is certainly a great card for Indians collectors. Colavito was a power hitter of equal skill to Doby and Minoso was one of the best stolen base artists of his time.
Donruss entered the high-end, autograph-per-pack market with the 1997 Donruss Signatures set. The Significant Signatures insert features all retired players and is limited to 2,000 copies per subject in total. This higher print run also allows Doby fans to collect one of his first certified autographs pretty easily as its value remains on the lower side of things.
Another beautifully-painted Larry Doby card graces the 1952 Bowman set. Although the conventional wisdom is that 1952 Bowman suffers in popularity compare to 1952 Topps, nicely-graded Doby cards from this Bowman set can match that of his Topps counterpart (see #4 on the list).
Although Doby wasn't featured in 1951 Topps, his 1952 Topps isn't quite his debut for the card maker either. He was featured in a little-known 1951 Topps Major League All-Star die-cut set where only a few copies have survived undamaged. This makes 1952 Topps the card that collectors normally focus on when searching for Doby's Topps debut and mid-range copies go for around about $100.
The 1950 Bowman Larry Doby is certainly one of his most beautiful cards and further enhanced given the level of detail used on the crowd cheering him on. The design was so good, in fact, that Bowman used the same picture for his card in the 1951 set.
It was a toss-up as to which of Doby's 1940s appearances would end up on in the top position on this list. His 1948-1949 Leaf card sits at #2 rather than #1 because it is one of the hardest cards for collectors to own. It is a short-printed card in one of the rarer sets from the 1940s and so the availability is very limited and the prices can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars based on condition. To that end, the quality of the printing on the cards varies greatly and some copies are printed so faintly it is difficult to make out his face.
The 1949 Bowman set is famous for including Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige rookies, but it also features the Larry Doby rookie card as well. A card that should certainly not be overlooked, it can often reach $500 at auction for near-mint graded copies. Doby's card was printed in the final series of the set and it includes a nameplate on the front that was missing on cards from earlier in the checklist.