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Baseball great Larry Doby Jr., Steve Gromek appear on unique Congressional Gold Medal

February 24th, 2024

The U.S. Mint produced a unique Congressional Gold Medal featuring recipient Larry Doby and teammate Steve Gromek. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Larry Doby Jr. has waited five years for the production of the Congressional Gold Medal that he specifically wanted.

No — scratch that — the medal that he knows his father would’ve wanted created.

When Congress voted to posthumously award Larry Doby, who died in 2003, the highest civilian honor in the country, the next step was having the U.S. Mint coordinate the image to be used with the family.

So when the Mint did, Doby Jr. threw them a bit of a curveball. The front of the coin was easy, as it would show Larry Doby in front of in Hinchliffe Stadium (Paterson, N.J.), where he was a star baseball and football player, and eventually tried for the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League.

The challenge for this project was the back. Doby Jr. didn’t just want an image of his father there, he also wanted his Cleveland Indians teammate and right-handed pitcher Steve Gromek on it, too.

Since the Mint is charged with emblazoning the image of the medal recipient, its immediate response wasn’t a receptive one.

“I was told [by the Mint] right away,” Doby Jr. told MLB.com, “that that’s not what they do.”

One side of a Congressional Gold Medal struck to honor baseball player Larry Doby is displayed at the Capitol, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, in Washington. Doby's son was presented with the medal during a ceremony on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)One side of a Congressional Gold Medal struck to honor baseball player Larry Doby is displayed at the Capitol, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, in Washington. Doby's son was presented with the medal during a ceremony on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

One side of a Congressional Gold Medal struck to honor baseball player Larry Doby is displayed at the Capitol, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, in Washington. Doby’s son was presented with the medal during a ceremony on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Doby Jr. was undeterred and insistent that the image he selected be the one used on the back of the coin. So he appealed to the Mint’s sense of history.

In addition to being a stand out player in the Negro Leagues, the first Black player to hit a home run in a World Series and a World War II veteran, Larry Doby was the first Black player in the American League. The image selected, one of Larry Doby and Gromek hugging, was historic in its own right.

More than 80,000 fans at Municipal Stadium on Oct. 9, 1948, watched as the Indians won a 2-1 game versus the Boston Braves thanks to Larry Doby crushing a go-ahead homer and Gromek tossing a complete game. That put Cleveland up 3-1 in a series that it eventually won 4-2 two days later on Oct. 11, 1948.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer captured the unique photo for the time period. Doby and Gromek — with huge smiles plastered across their faces — were cheek-to-cheek hugging one another. A Black and a White man doing so, publicly no less, was absolutely unheard of, and the photo spread like wildfire after The Associated Press distributed the images across the country.

“That is the first time that I can recall — or many people can recall — that a Black and a white embraced each other in that fashion, [and it] went all over the world,” Larry Doby said back then. “That picture just showed to me the feelings that you have. You don’t think about it in terms of color. It’s a feeling you have for a person.”

Gromek, who died in 2002, was shunned by people in his hometown of Hamtramck, Mich., but his son, Carl Gromek, said that didn’t phase him.

“He said that people were put off by it, so they would not engage him in conversation if they bumped into him,”Carl said. “But I think my dad looked at it like, ‘They’ve got a problem, I don’t have a problem.’ He cherished that picture.”

In the end, when the medal was finally presented in a Dec. 18 ceremony, everyone was extremely pleased with how it turned out. Including the Gromek family, who Doby Jr. invited to the event in Washington, D.C.

“It’s a beautiful image, a milestone image,” John McGraw, the designer and Mint medallic artist, said. “It’s also a celebration of Larry Doby being the first Black man to hit a homer in the World Series. To me, as a big baseball fan, I think it’s one of the most important milestones we have in baseball.”

Said Doby Jr.: “I am very happy that we are linked. Because that picture says a thousand words. And they’re a thousand damn good words.”

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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