‘Barrier breakers’ celebrated as mural unveiled

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CLEVELAND — For over a century, Cleveland’s baseball organization has prided itself on breaking barriers. And now, the team found a way to represent that at its home.

On Friday afternoon, the Guardians unveiled a mural of three of their most significant historical players: Larry Doby, Satchel Paige and Frank Robinson. It’s the first mural done outside of Progressive Field, located beside the left-field gate, facing Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

The painting, done by local artist Glen Infante, features portraits of Paige, Doby and Robinson (from left to right). Why these three? Here’s just a few reasons why this trio was so impactful in Major League history:

o Doby was the first African American player in the American League and the second overall in the AL/NL, following Jackie Robinson’s lead just over two months earlier.
o Doby and Paige were the first African American players to win the World Series in 1948.
o In 1971, Paige became the first player from the Negro Leagues to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
o In 1975, Robinson became the first African American manager in AL/NL history.

“As you will see, the mural celebrates our organization’s deep history of barrier breakers,” Guardians senior vice president of public affairs Bob DiBiasio said. “We’ve always been at the forefront of change, from Satchel Paige to Frank Robinson to most recently our team name change. We are barrier breakers. We believe in bridge building, and this mural will help tell that important story.”

The Guardians used the mural unveiling to kick off a special and important weekend at Progressive Field. Saturday will serve as Larry Doby Day at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, honoring the 75th anniversary of Doby breaking into the American League (July 5, 1947).

“Here’s a guy that broke in [shortly] after Jackie Robinson,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “I’m going to go out on a limb and say they weren’t throwing too many parades for Larry. Then, you look at some of the history. Here’s a guy that served his country in the Navy, then comes home and gets told he can’t play. That is just brutal. It just makes my stomach turn.

“I’m glad that we’re celebrating his ability to be that tough and to absorb everything that I’m sure he had to, and stuff that we don’t know he had to. But I just want to make sure that we’re not celebrating the fact that we’re treating people equal. That should be a given.”

The Guardians players and coaches will wear a special Doby patch on their uniforms, and the organization has a special video presentation planned. Doby’s son, Larry Doby Jr., will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch with Infante. The first 15,000 fans will receive a 1947 Doby jersey, courtesy of Discount Drug Mart.

“Still to this day it’s hard for me to believe the things that those people that are there [in the mural] went through,” Doby Jr. said at Friday’s mural ceremony. “I think my father’s proudest accomplishment was that because of his efforts, people came after him. I think that was the thing he was most proud of. He wouldn’t talk about hitting a home run or making a catch or this or that. They opened the door, Mr. Robinson and him and those guys came after him, and I think he’s really proud of that.”