Don Newcombe: A Dodger Legend
The man known as “Newk” passed away from an ongoing illness yesterday at the age of 92. He was an iconic figure in Dodgers history, playing alongside Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella in the 40s and 50s, and breaking racial barriers in the sport of baseball.
We can only tell you so much about Don Newcombe, from stories of racial injustice to his impact on the Dodgers organization. He was, after all, the last Dodger link to Robinson and Campanella from the Brooklyn days. It would take ten emails to tell his story. Instead, here’s a short snippet of his baseball career and an emotional column from one of our favorite sportswriters, Bill Plaschke.
Newcombe played for the Dodgers, Reds, and Indians from 1949 to 1958, except for two seasons where he served in the Army during the Korean War from 1952 to 1954. He was the first African American pitcher to win Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young Award, MVP, and a World Series game, and he was a critical player in the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series title.
Editor’s Note: The Cy Young Award was created in 1956, the year Newcombe won it. He was the first pitcher, white or black, to ever receive the award.
After retiring, Newcombe worked in community affairs with the Dodgers front office. He had suffered from alcohol addiction at the end of his career, and he worked to help other players and coaches around the league, not just the Dodgers, get their lives back on track.
“What I have done after my baseball career – being able to help people, getting their lives back on track, and they become human beings again – means more to me than all the things I did in baseball.”
In his later years, Dodger fans could catch him donning his fedora and brown suit behind home plate, or throwing out the first pitch as often as he could.
(Bill Plaschke, LA Times)