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Don Newcombe (1926–2019), former Dodgers great

by Kirk Fox

Don Newcombe was a legendary pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers who was the first Black pitcher to start a World Series game during his rookie season in 1949, winning the Rookie of the Year award. Known for his rocket fastball, he helped lead the Dodgers to a World Series title in 1955 with a 20-5 record. His best year was 1956, when he won the NL MVP award, leading the league with 27 wins. He was selected to four all-star teams during his career.

Newcombe left baseball for two years to serve in the Army during the Korean War.  

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Died: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 (Who else died on February 19?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 92.

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On dealing with racism as a baseball pioneer along with teammates Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella:

On a trip to St. Louis, the White players stayed at the classy Chase Hotel, while the Black players were booked into a run-down motel with no air conditioning. “Here I’d served my country in the U.S. Army while my team had twice reached the World Series—costing me a lot of money—and I’m not allowed to stay at the same hotel as my White teammates!” He and Jackie Robinson decided to go to the Chase to speak with the manager. They told him they wanted to stay in his hotel, along with the rest of the team. “Fellas,” the manager said, “you can stay here, but I don’t want you swimming in the pool.” —Newcombe in an interview with the New York Post

Alcohol addiction and redemption: After the 1957 season, Newcombe’s career took a quick downturn due to alcohol abuse and he was out of the league by 1960. He recovered and became the Dodgers’ director of community affairs, helping many other players who struggled with addiction.

“What I have done after my baseball career, and being able to help people [get] their lives back on track and … become human beings again, means more to me than all the things I did in baseball.” —Newcombe, according to the Los Angeles Times

Full obituary: Los Angeles Times

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