Baseball Biography Sheds Light on Civil Rights Hero
“Larry Doby has never achieved the recognition he deserves as a true civil rights pioneer and outstanding athlete,” Engel said. “Relatively few people have heard of Larry Doby. I would like to help change that.”
Engel said that the book, titled “He Changed the Face of Baseball: The Larry Doby Story,” focuses on baseball, sports history, the civil rights movement and social justice.
Engel said she became intrigued with Doby when she came across a 1950s photo of five African Americans—including Doby—playing for the Dodgers and the Indians.
“While I knew that Larry Doby had integrated the American League, I knew nothing else about him, unlike the other players in the picture with whom I was much more familiar,” Engel said.
She investigated Doby and found only one scholarly biography written by Joseph Moore, professor of history at Montclair University. Moore connected Engel with Doby to create the biography.
Engel said that Doby had heavy involvement in writing the book.
“For a period of two years he dictated the story of his life and then helped develop an outline of events to be covered in a version for children. When a draft of the text appeared, he went over it line by line correcting mistakes,” Engel said.
Doby died before the book was published. However, Doby’s son, Larry Doby Jr., attended a book-signing event in State College, Pennsylvania in October 2014.
Engel started writing sports biographies when she worked as a reading teacher in the Philipsburg-Osceola School District. She said that two second graders with an interest in baseball cards inspired her to develop baseball biographies for children.
“I thought that if they are so interested in baseball cards, I should write little books that look like baseball cards with an action picture on the front, lifetime statistics on the back and an easy-to-read, short biography of a player worth emulating,” Engel said.
Engel said her current position as a supervisor for CI 495A, a field experience in which students spend two days per week teaching in elementary classrooms, helps her write books because it gives her an opportunity to visit classrooms with young readers to see what books are interesting to them.
By Samantha Schwartz (November 2014)