Muscarella & Jackals help Hinchliffe celebrate Larry Doby Day

Pat Pickens

Friday was Larry Doby Day, and those who visited the Paterson native’s home ballpark received some extra-special treats along with a valuable history lesson.

Hinchliffe Stadium honored Paterson’s native son on the 77th anniversary of his breaking the American League color barrier with poster giveaway and an art exhibit featuring acclaimed baseball-themed artist and photographer Donna Muscarella.

Doby became the second Black MLB player to participate in a big-league game, and the first in the American League, when he suited up for the then-Cleveland Indians against the Chicago White Sox on July 5, 1947. Doby was 0 for 1 with a strikeout in his debut but picked up his first MLB hit the next day.

But the famous graduate of Paterson Eastside High School spent his first four-and-a-half seasons playing his Negro League home games at Hinchliffe as a member of the Newark Eagles before starting his Hall of Fame MLB career with Cleveland in 1947.

All fans for the New Jersey Jackals game against the Lake Erie Crushers at Hinchliffe on Friday received a poster commemorating the 75th anniversary of Doby breaking the AL color barrier. Doby was the second Black MLB player, starting his MLB career just months after Jackie Robinson broke the NL color barrier for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“When I learned about baseball growing up, [the color barrier being broken] was always ‘Jackie and Larry,’” Muscarella said  

But Muscarella’s experience is not necessarily the same as everyone, proven by the multiple feature films made about Robinson as the first Black MLB player and the fact Doby’s feat gets less recognition nationally. Still, with the American and National Leagues truly separate in those days, Doby’s accomplishment was just as important as Robinson’s, even if it came two-and-a-half months later.

Luckily, those who walked into the Charles J. Muth Museum on Friday to escape the oppressive heat and humidity early and the rain later in the evening could pick Muscarella’s encyclopedic baseball brain and take in some of her artwork on Doby, which was on sale.

“Some visitors arrived with a full appreciation for Mr. Doby’s contributions to baseball and the civil-rights movement. Others came with a curiosity to learn more about the historic significance of Hinchliffe Stadium and its hometown hero,” Muscarella said. “In every case, it was an honor to be able to share my enthusiasm and appreciation for all that Hinchliffe and Mr. Doby represent.”

Her trading-card set is sold year-round at the Muth Museum store, but Muscarella also included her Doby-themed artwork as well as photographs of New York baseball heroes Derek Jeter, Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso. Fans could also take home complimentary Yankees- and Mets-themed postcards from Muscarella’s photo collection.

Muscarella turned her love of baseball into a full-blown business during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and has traveled around the country proclaiming the importance of both Doby and Hinchliffe Stadium.    

“[Robinson and Doby breaking the color barrier] set the stage for the civil-rights movement in the U.S.,” Muscarella said  “It might seem trivial because it was just a game, but baseball history is American history.”  

Pat Pickens
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Pat Pickens