Bock’s Score: Be Patient

Today’s piece of advice is provided at no charge: Be patient. Good things take time to happen, sometimes a week, sometimes a month, sometimes a year. In the case of Jack Johnson and Larry Doby, it took several decades.

Both of them had important help from the body politic.

Johnson, once heavyweight boxing champion of the world, and Doby, the first black player in baseball’s American League, were long ago recognized by their sports and inducted into their respective Halls of Fame. Now, America is finally catching up.

Johnson, the son of a former slave, was boxing’s first African-American champion and very good at his craft. Because of his gaudy lifestyle, he also was something of a target for Jim Crow America, especially after he defeated Jim Jeffries, who was lured out of retirement as “The Great White Hope,’’ specifically to end Johnson’s reign.

Johnson also was a bit careless with personal behavior, known for carousing and when he was caught transporting a white woman – who happened to be his wife—across state lines, he was charged with violating the Mann Act and sentenced to a year in jail. He fled the country but later returned to serve his time.

Even though the International Boxing Hall of Fame honored him in 1990, he still was viewed as something of an outcast until May when actor Sylvester Stallone brought his story to Donald Trump, who, intrigued by his presidentialpowers, pardoned Johnson. It made good political fodder for the president, a nice gesture for a fallen hero. Sadly, the old champ couldn’t enjoy the vindication because he died in an automobile accident in 1946.

That brings us to Doby, who arrived in the Major Leagues about three months after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball in 1947. Doby was the first player to go from the Negro Leagues directly to the Majors and helped the Cleveland Indians to a World Series championship in his first full season with them.

Just as he was the second black player in the majors, he also was the second black manager.following Frank Robnson when he was hired to pilot the Chicago White Sox in 1978. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.

Shortly after President Trump discovered Jack Johnson and pardoned the old boxer this year, the House of Representatives discovered Larry Doby and nominated the old outfielder for the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress can bestow on an American citizen.

The honor for Doby was co-sponsored in the House by Ohio congressman Jim Renacci. The Senate version of the bill is co-sponsored by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, Renacci is seeking Brown’s seat in the Senate this November. Both politicians were effusive in their praise of Doby. Why wouldn’t they be?

So, within a few months of each other, Jack Johnson and Larry Doby, both long gone from the American sports scene and seemingly forgotten, surfaced to be honored in Washington, D.C. Their patience finally paid off. Ain’t politics grand?

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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