Larry Doby Jersey

70th anniversary of Larry Doby breaking the American League color barrier

July 5 marks the 70th anniversary of Cleveland Indians outfielder Larry Doby breaking the color barrier in the American League.

Doby appeared in his first game for the Indians against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park three months after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League.

Here are seven facts about the legendary Indians slugger that you might not have known.

He was the first player to go directly to the majors from the Negro Leagues

Doby played four seasons with the Newark Eagles, leading the team to the Negro League title in 1946. In that championship series, Doby batted .372 with a home run, five RBIs and three steals as the Eagles beat Kansas City, and Doby’s future Indians teammate, Satchel Paige.

He was primarily a pinch hitter in 1947

Doby made 29 appearances for the Indians between July 5 and Sept. 26 and 24 of those were as a pinch hitter. He collected five hits and a single RBI as a pinch hitter that season, while starting a handful of games at second base, shortstop and first base.

He was the first African-American player to homer in the World Series

Doby homered in Game 4 of the 1948 World Series off Boston’s Johnny Sain in the third inning, providing what proved to be the game-winning run on Oct. 9. Doby and teammate Satchel Paige became the first African-American players to win a World Series championship when the Indians took the crown.

He helped the Indians win a franchise-record 111 games and the AL pennant in 1954. Doby finished second in the AL Most Valuable Player award voting behind New York’s Yogi Berra and was the league’s RBI leader and home run champion.

He was also a pioneering manager

Doby later served as the second African-American manager in the majors with the Chicago White Sox.

After retiring from the game in 1959, Doby participated in a couple of baseball clinics in Japan as part of a U.S. State Department travel delegation. Later he came out of retirement and became one of the first American professional baseball players in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. Doby and Don Newcombe, former teammates with the Negro League Newark Eagles, both signed with the Chunichi Dragons. Doby played one season for the Dragons before returning home to New Jersey.

Doby was an outstanding basketball player

Before focusing on baseball, Doby accepted a basketball scholarship to Long Island University, where he first matriculated in 1942. After retiring from baseball, Doby served as a director of community relations for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets from 1979-1990.

Carlos Baerga Jersey

Former Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga, shown waving to the crowd after throwing out the first pitch of Game 2 of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field, is a big fan of Jose Ramirez.

When GM Hank Peters sent Joe Carter to San Diego in the winter of 1989, he received Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga and Chris James. Alomar and Baerga formed the foundation of a new gleaming age of big-league baseball in Cleveland.

Baerga was 26 years old in 1995 when the Indians won 100 games and reached the postseason and World Series for the first time in 41 years. The switch-hitting second baseman batted .314 (175-for-557) with 28 doubles, 15 homers and 90 RBI in a lineup that is considered one of the best in baseball history.

This season, 22 years later, another thickly-built, switch-hitting second baseman has powered the Indians to a 102-win season and postseason appearance. His name is Jose Ramirez and Baerga is a fan of the 25-year-old infielder.

“Jose Ramirez is a special player,” said Baerga. “I’ve been with the organization for the last five years working with the minor-league guys. Since the first day I saw him, I knew he had the talent to get to the big leagues, but I never thought he was going to explode like this.”

Ramirez hit .318 (186-for-585) with 29 homers and 83 RBI this season. He led the big leagues with 56 doubles, scored 107 runs and stole 17 bases. Ramirez joined Grady Sizemore as the only Indians player to score 100 plus runs with at least 50 doubles, 25 homers and 15 steals in one season.

“He reminds me of myself a little bit,” said Baerga. “He comes to the ballpark every day to play. He wants to be there no matter what.

“He’s not afraid of anybody. I listen to people from other teams talk about him and they think he’s the most dangerous hitter that we have. That’s what they say.

“I talked to the Astros. I talked to Omar Vizquel (first base coach for Detroit). Omar said, “We don’t want to face him with men on base because this guy produces.’ He’s a special guy.”

Vizquel, of course, was Baerga’s double-play partner on the 1995 Indians.

Ramirez, who debuted in 2013, just completed his third season in the big leagues. He’s played shortstop, third base and left field before settling at second base this year because of injuries to Jason Kipnis.

“We started the same way,” said Baerga. “When I came up I was a utility player, do you remember? I started at third base and sometimes I played shortstop and then I went to second base. So he kind of reminds me of myself, but he has more talent than what I had.

“We’re both switch-hitters, but he has more speed than I had. His knowledge for the game is unbelievable. He knows the strike zone.”

Ramirez struck out 69 times and drew 52 walks. He led the AL in extra base hits, tying Giancarlo Stanton for the MLB lead with 91.

In comparing the 1995 team to the 2017 Indians, Baerga said, “As far as hitting, I think we had more power at that time. . .The only thing where they have a step up on us is the pitching. They have three guys (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer) with 17 or more wins.

“The bullpen is unbelievable. If we have that kind of pitching staff. . . I’m not criticizing Orel Hershiser, Charlie Nagy or Dennis Martinez. They did their job. But I think this pitching staff is a little more special.”

Baerga thinks the additions of Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce have helped the current Indians. He was asked about Albert Belle and Encarnacion, the middle-of-the-order hitters, for each team.

“Albert and Eddie (Encarnacion) are kind of the same,” said Baerga. “They’re RBI machines. They hit over 35 homers every year – Albert hit 50 in 1995 – and drive in over 100 runs. Eddie has hit over 30 home runs over the last six years.

“When we signed him, I was excited. What happened to Toronto when they let Eddie go? I think that was a great acquisition. And getting Jay Bruce for the second half, it took us to another level. He can change a game with one swing of the bat.”

Kenny Lofton Jersey

Want to feel old?

The Cal baseball team won a 12-inning thriller Saturday over Brown on a walk-off home run by — here is the part where the inexorable passage of time is going to slap you upside the head — Darren Baker.

That’s right. Dusty’s boy.

Not only did Baker the younger drive in the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, he ended the game with a colossal home run that sent the Golden Bears into a frothing frenzy.

Most of us see Darren Baker in our mind’s eyes not after a walk-off, but after a drag-off. You’ll remember Darren was a 3-year-old bat boy for the Giants in 2002. Cute as a button. Precocious tendencies to boot. The Giants played the Angels in the World Series that year. During Game 5 in San Francisco, Kenny Lofton swatted a triple that scored J.T. Snow and David Bell.

As Giants rounded the bases and the crowd roared its approval, little Darren Baker raced to home plate to retrieve Lofton’s bat. Fortunately, Snow sized up the situation as he crossed the plate, grabbing Darren by his oversized jacket and pulling him to safety. We can laugh now.

That’s where we left the story of young Darren Baker. But he’s been busy.

A star at Sacramento’s Jesuit High School, Darren, now 19, was drafted last season by the Washington Nationals when his father was managing the team. Darren decided to attend Cal.

About that homer: “Coach (Noah) Jackson and I were talking about a game plan before I went up,” Baker said, according to USA Today. “I got a hit off (pitcher Grant Greeno) yesterday on a fastball and I didn’t think he’d throw that again, so I was really sitting curveball. He got it to me and it was the perfect pitch at the perfect time.”

No one would know better than he that timing is everything.

Jay Bruce Jersey

Mets outfielder Jay Bruce gets ready for batting practice during a spring training workout on Feb. 22, 2018 in Port St. Lucie, FL. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Mets’ outfield, the epicenter of their early rash of largely minor injuries, is coming back together.

Rightfielder Jay Bruce (plantar fasciitis) played defense for the first time in spring training Thursday, logging three innings, throwing out a runner at second and doubling in his only at-bat. Manager Mickey Callaway said Bruce will play the outfield again Friday.

“He said he feels totally fine,” Callaway said.

Callaway said Bruce’s outfield ability is an underrated part of his game, and throwing out the Marlins’ Cameron Maybin when he tried to stretch a single was an example of that.

Bruce posted six defensive runs saved in rightfield last season after putting up a -11 DRS the year before.

“Great throw. Great release,” Callaway said. “He knows the game of baseball, so he knows, ‘I have to come get this ball and get it in quick because this guy might try to stretch this into a double.’ ”

Centerfielder Juan Lagares (strained left hamstring) and leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes (mild shoulder soreness) are slated to make their defensive debuts Friday. Lagares has missed the first week of exhibition games and Cespedes has been limited to DH duty in a pair of games.

The Mets have two split-squad games Friday: 1 p.m. at First Data Field against the Nationals and 6 p.m. in West Palm Beach against the Astros. Cespedes was on the travel roster. Lagares was not.

Swarzak takes it easy

Righthander Anthony Swarzak has a strained left calf, an MRI confirmed Wednesday, and he sat out the Mets’ workout Thursday to receive treatment.

“It’s a day-to-day thing,” he said. “We’re going to take it easy the next few days and see how my calf bounces back from that.”

Opening Day does not appear to be in jeopardy for Swarzak, who as a reliever does not need as much time to build up as starters do. He also emphasized that the strain is not a significant one.

Extra bases

On his 25th birthday, Michael Conforto hit soft toss in the batting cage Thursday, his first time since September shoulder surgery. That’s a step forward from his previous work hitting off a tee . . . Righty Seth Lugo, competing for a roster spot, retired the first eight Marlins he faced Thursday before yielding consecutive extra-base hits and a run. He struck out three in three innings.

Corey Kluber Jersey

Indians right-hander Corey Kluber allowed one run in two innings Tuesday in his spring-training debut Tuesday Oakland at Goodyears Ballpark.

Manager Terry Francona has watched Corey Kluber win two Cy Young awards in the last four years. On Tuesday, before Kluber made his first spring training start of the year, Francona was asked what he expects from Kluber during camp.

“That when he gets to opening day, he feels really good about himself,” Francona told reporters in Goodyear, Ariz.

Kluber, if you haven’t guessed by now, is scheduled to be the opening day starter for the third straight year when the Indians start the regular season on March 29 against Seattle at Safeco Field.

“I could care less what his ERA is,” said Francona. “He’ll work on things during spring training. A lot of times you see that the veteran pitchers are the ones who give up runs in spring training. They know they have a spot on the team. He may want to work on fastball command one day so he won’t throw a breaking ball.

“The biggest thing is that when we get to opening day, he feels really, really good about himself.”

Kluber allowed one run on one hit in two innings in Tuesday’s 16-8 win over Oakland at Goodyear Ballpark. He struck out three and walked one.

“I try to use the first time or two to get used to facing another team and having the defense behind you,” Kluber told reporters after his start. “I wasn’t working on anything specific. Moreso, I was just trying to get used to having another team out there, facing hitters, reacting to swings and things like that.”

No. 1: Thumbs up for Josh Tomlin

Francona liked the way Tomlin looked in his first start of the spring on Monday in a 7-6 loss to Milwaukee. He threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts.

“He was terrific. He said he felt strong,” said Francona. “His ball had life through the zone. He threw a couple fastballs down that usually sink or sail, but they just rode through the zone. He looked really sharp. I was really encouraged.”

Francona said they’re going to experiment defensively when Tomlin pitches this spring. He’s going to have the infielders play behind more runners than they have in the past to take away the holes in the infield.

“I think it’s such an advantage,” said Francona. “Tomlin is so quick to the plate, yet he’s a contact pitcher. So if we take the hole away, it should help.”

No. 2: Richie Shaffer is hard to ignore

Shaffer, former No.1 pick of the Rays in 2012, has played four games this spring as a minor-league invitee for the Tribe. Not only is he hitting .800 (4-for-5), but he’s hit one triple, two homers and driven in nine runs.

In his first of two at-bats on Tuesday, he hit a grand slam to turn a 6-6 tie into a 10-6 lead. Last year at Class AAA Columbus, Shaffer hit .227 (105-for-463) with 30 homers, 89 RBI and 188 strikeouts.

Shaffer told mlb.com on Tuesday, “I’m trying to make a case that there’s always room on a roster. That’s my goal, is to go out there and just force someone’s hand and to make a move, and to be like, ‘We can’t not have this guy out there.'”

Francona, for his part, has said that he’s glad Shaffer has gotten off to a good start this spring. That was not the case last spring, but Shaffer still impressed with his power. Just like he’s doing this spring.

Shaffer will concentrate on playing first and third base this spring.

No. 3: No mound work for Danny Salazar.

It’s looking more and more as if Danny Salazar will open the season on the disabled list because of a sore right shoulder. Francona was asked Tuesday if Salazar was close to throwing off the mound yet. The answer was no.

“He’s not even at long toss yet,” said Francona. “He’s on a shorter version of it.”

Salazar injured the shoulder during his offseason conditioning. The Indians have known about the injury since Tribe Fest in January.

Outfielder Brandon Guyer (left wrist) has been cleared to start his “return to play’ program. Still no word when he can swing a bat.

No. 4: Francisco Mejia, the wild card.

The Indians like the way Mejia catches. But they like the way he swings the bat better. It’s one of the reasons that he could be playing third base or the outfield sometime this season for the Indians.

“Offensively, he’s so advanced,” said Francona. “That’s why we’ve talked (position changes) with him. If something happens in April, May or June, he’s probably our best minor league hitter. If he’s able to play another position, does that speed up his ascent to the major leagues?

“I fought putting Carlos (Santana) in the outfield. After putting him out there four or five times, I didn’t worry about it. And the game didn’t change that much. Sometimes I think we worry too much.”

Mejia has two hits in four at-bats so far this spring. He hit a two-run homer against the Brewers on Monday.

No. 5: That’s not how to run the bases.

If you were wondering how the Indians hit into a game-ending double play on Monday with runners on second and third in a 7-6 loss to the Brewers, well, here’s how it happened.

Nellie Rodriguez was on third and Yu Chang on second. Chang had just hit a ground rule double to make it a 7-6 game. If the ball had stayed in play, Rodriguez would have scored the tying run, but instead he had to stop at third.

Willi Castro, the next batter, sent a grounder to former Indian Jesus Aguilar at first base. Aguilar stepped on first, but when Rodriguez stopped after breaking toward home, he threw to second after Chang broke for third. Rodriguez, all 260 pounds of him, then broke for home, but Chang was tagged out just before Rodriguez scored.

It will not go down as one the Tribe’s best base-running moments of the spring.