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Larry Doby has even stronger and more urgent feelings on the subject. Normally Doby is a good-natured man, quick to laugh, friendly. He is now an insurance agent in Saddle Brook, N.J. " 'Major League' Financial Planning," his card says. When dressed in his somber suit and regimental striped tie he looks like a successful businessman. But all Doby ever really wanted was to stay in baseball. He was the American League's Jackie Robinson, and he hoped baseball would find a place for him. But baseball did not.
"Baseball has done a lot for the Negro." says Doby, "but the Negro has done more for baseball. Black players have meant gold for baseball owners. I drew a lot of people into Cleveland in those days. I was surprised about two things. Surprised I ever got a chance to play in the big leagues and more surprised I didn't get a chance to stay in when I was through playing. After all, I was a pioneer. It doesn't make sense to me that an insurance company would give me the chance to prove I could handle a job, but baseball wouldn't even let me try.
"I wouldn't go out of my way to go back now. When I think of the way things were, I wonder how we did it. I remember sliding into second base and the fielder spitting tobacco juice in my face, and I just walked away. I walked away. They'd shout at you: 'You dirty black so and so!' There's no way to walk away from that, but I did. I didn't have a fight until 1957. Charlie Neal had one in Brooklyn about the same time. I guess we celebrated our independence."
Much of the personal racial animosity that Larry Doby remembers is gone in baseball now. The friction between white and black players today often comes back to the problem of economics, which is the whole point in pro sports.
Black professional athletes swear that the color of their skin consistently costs them money, and when the white establishment points to Willie Mays and his $125,000 salary the Negroes answer, "Keep on pointing," and it is not very long before there is no one left to point out. Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles figures that the color of his skin has cost him a minimum of $50,000 in salaries alone through the years. The San Francisco Giants have raised the knack of signing nonwhites almost to an art form. In the same period that a California white boy named Mike McCormick got a $60,000 bonus, a Negro named Orlando Cepeda was signing for $500. Giant Owner Horace Stoneham paid $350 for Jim Ray Hart's signature, $500 for Willie McCovey, $500 for Felipe Alou and $4,000 for Juan Marichal.
The black players also find themselves far down on the endorsement scale. They wonder if it could really be true that the sight of a black athlete's face beaming out of a billboard advertising "Okay Cola" would only send the white folks racing to the store for Coca-Cola or Pepsi, or that white buyers would rather fight than switch to a cigarette endorsed by a black. "I had a good season in 1967," says Earl Wilson. "But did my 22 wins get me any endorsements? Hell, no! Black people use all the products, but we don't get to endorse anything."
After he won the triple crown and was unanimously named the American League's Most Valuable Player, superstar Frank Robinson sat back and waited for the commercial offers to roll in. At the least he figured he would pick up $20,000 to $30,000 in extra money over the winter. By the time the 1967 spring-training season rolled around Robinson had made a total of one TV appearance and two $500 speaking engagements. When he asked his agent why they had done so little business, the agent said, "Look, they don't want you, and there's nothing I can do about it." By comparison, Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox estimates his MVP award last season will be worth about $200,000 over a three-year period. At one point he was asking $1,500 to $2,000 to attend a baseball writers' dinner in Chicago. The writers balked, and Yastrzemski skipped the dinner. Frank Robinson went—for expenses only.
Of the three major team sports, professional basketball has moved the closest to integration—since half its players are white and half are black it mathematically represents the ultimate in integration—but even in basketball there is more of an uneasy truce than equality. Because the Negro so dominates the sport, the old racial attitudes are kept well in check, but they were there and they die slowly.
Soon after Willie Naulls came to the St. Louis Hawks from UCLA in 1956 he found there was a banquet for the team at a country club and he was the only one not invited. He went straight to the airport to go home. "But then I decided it was easier to quit than to stay, so I stayed. A couple of weeks later I was traded, and things began going right."
Sihugo Green remembers that when he came to the Hawks he was told to "just play defense for the Big Three—Pettit, Hagan and Lovellette. In my first game I hit my first four shots, and I never got back in that night. The coach said I didn't fit into the system."