Over the years, I’ve written a lot on this blog about Jackie Robinson, who has long been one of my heroes. In 1947, Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, making it possible for African Americans to play big league baseball, and actually making baseball what it had long claimed to be—the national pastime.
Robinson was a great baseball player, and was the perfect choice as the pioneer who would integrate baseball. He was determined to succeed on the field, and his considerable skills helped. He was a good line drive hitter, a versatile fielder, and an absolute terror with his legs. His daring maneuvers on the base paths thrilled fans, and brought a new style of playing to the conservative Major League circuit. He was great off the field as well: good-looking, articulate, and poised.
But probably, you know a lot about Jackie Robinson already, because he has gotten a lot of fanfare over the years.
You might not know as much about Larry Doby.
Larry Doby was Jackie Robinson’s American League counterpart. In July 1947, Doby broke the color barrier in the AL when he cracked the lineup for the Cleveland Indians for the first time. In his first appearance he struck out, but he would go on to have a great career of his own as a 7-time All-Star and an eventual Hall of Famer. By some measurements, he even had a better career than Robinson did.
But Robinson came first; Doby was only second. Robinson was the flashier player; Doby was more in the background. Robinson has become an honored figure, a hero to millions; Doby has been forgotten by most people.
So it goes.
But I guess the point I want to make in this post is how incredibly important the Larry Dobys of the world are. As great as Jackie Robinson was, if Larry Doby and a bunch of other African American players behind him weren’t ready to come in and prove that Robinson wasn’t a fluke, it all would have been for nothing. A lot of those players have been forgotten, but their impact and legacy lives on.
And I think about the example of Larry Doby and how it applies to other areas of life, and especially to God’s Kingdom, because when you think about all the parts of Christ’s Body, not too many people get to be Jackie Robinson. Certainly, there are a few—immensely talented, flashy, charismatic, known and admired and remembered by all—but not many.
On the other hand, there are a lot of Larry Dobys—talented in their own right, but not as flashy, not as well-known. Just committed disciples who live lives of dogged, forgettable excellence for the cause of Christ. And who change the world in the process.
Praise God for the Larry Dobys!