With America having celebrated her Independence Day on Wednesday, most don’t realize that July 5th is also a historical day for the nation.
Baseball itself has been a beacon for progression and a representation of the larger changes we’ve seen in this nation’s history. Obviously, Jackie Robinson and the day commemorating him breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier has taken most of the spotlight.
But it was 71 years ago on Thursday that Larry Doby broke the American League color barrier — mere months after Robinson suited up for the then Brooklyn Dodgers.
Today in 1947, Cleveland's Larry Doby becomes the first African American to play in the American League. Respect to an underrated hero. pic.twitter.com/J68HKCZsSA
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) July 5, 2018
It’s a story that largely goes unnoticed. Sure Robinson cleared the path for Doby months earlier, but the two men and their roles in history could have easily been switched up.
Doby, who passed away at the age of 79 back in 2003, played 13 seasons in the Majors. He recorded a .283 average with 252 homers and nearly 1,000 RBI en route to being inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 2008.
Nearly three full decades later, the great Arthur Ashe would use July 5th to make history on the tennis court. Back in 1975, Ashe defeated a heavily favored Jimmy Connors to become the first black man to win a Wimbledon title. It was considered at the time one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
5 July 1975. Arthur Ashe (USA) became the first black man to win a Wimbledon singles title by beating No.1 seed and defending champion Jimmy Connors in one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history. pic.twitter.com/MS4ASrLJp2
— Billy Babu 🇫🇴 (@BillyBabu7) July 5, 2018
The rest is pretty much history. Prior to his retirement in 1980, Ashe was considered one of the greatest tennis players ever. Sadly, he contracted HIV through a blood transfusion in 1998 and passed away at the young age of 49 in 1993.
While we find a way to celebrate just how much has changed around the sports world, these two figures shouldn’t be ignored. They represented what was right about progression in the United States.
And at a time when it seems we’re more divided than ever, our shared history should be recognized. Those heroes who came before us should never be forgotten. July 5th is a true representation of this.