|Don Newcombe Special Advisor to the Chairman|
Don Newcombe enters his 56th season in the Dodger organization. "Newk" pitched eight seasons for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers (1949-51), ('54-58) and is credited with starting the first Community Relations department in Major League Baseball in 1970.
Since 2009, Newcombe has been a Special Advisor to the Chairman.
In 2011, Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander joined Newcombe as one of two men in baseball history to win the sport's three major honors - Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award.
In January 2012, Newcombe introduced Verlander at the Baseball Writers Association's annual dinner where Verlander received his 2011 Cy Young and MVP Awards.
Last year, Newcombe was honored by Major League Baseball with the “Beacon of Hope” award at the annual Civil Rights game in Atlanta.
Newcombe, 86, spent the first seven years of his 10-year big league career with the Brooklyn Dodgers before joining the franchise in its move to Los Angeles in 1958. The right-handed pitcher helped the Dodgers win their first World Championship in 1955, leading the National League that season with an .800 winning percentage (20-5). That season, he also became the first NL pitcher to hit seven home runs in a season.
The New Jersey native was a four-time National League All-Star and registered a record of 149-90 with 1,129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA, 136 complete games and 24 shutouts. He pitched in three World Series and at 22 years old in 1949, he became the second rookie ever to start the opening game of a World Series, striking out 11 Yankees in eight innings.
In 1951, Newcombe won 20 games for the first time in his career and then missed the following two seasons while serving his country during the Korean War. He later won 20 games again in 1955 and led the league with 27 wins in 1956.
Following his Major League career, Newcombe signed with the Chunichi Dragons of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball in 1962 and became the first former Major League player to play in the Japanese League. He batted .262 with 12 homers in 279 at-bats before ending his playing career.
In 1980, his final year of eligibility, Newcombe received 59 votes (15.3 percent) for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
When he signed with the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues in 1945, Newcombe had no idea he was on the verge of changing the course of sports history. Dodger President Branch Rickey had decided to integrate Major League Baseball, as an unwritten rule had prevented blacks from playing since the 1880s.
Rickey secretly began scouting players from the Negro Leagues and he eventually signed Jackie Robinson, catcher Roy Campanella and Newcombe. In 1946, the trio broke the minor league color barrier as Robinson played at Triple-A Montreal while Newcombe and Campanella were standouts for the Class B Nashua Dodgers of the New England League.
Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and he won National League Rookie of the Year honors. Campanella was promoted to the Dodgers in 1948, and Newcombe finally arrived in May 1949. From 1949 to 1956, the Dodgers played in five World Series and narrowly missed the playoffs in 1950 and 1951.
While the Dodgers were winners on the field, the trio still faced challenges off the field. There were death threats, isolation, degradation and insults hurled by fans and opponents, along with snide comments from certain Dodger teammates. Throughout the early 1950s, there were some hotels and restaurants that wouldn't serve black players during the season.
After his career, Newcombe had a fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, just 28 days before his assassination in 1968. Concluding a tour of speech-making, protests marches and peaceful demonstrations, King had dinner at Newcombe's home in Los Angeles before King returned to Atlanta.
According to Newcombe, King said, "Don, you'll never know how easy you and Jackie and (Larry) Doby and Campy (Roy Campanella) made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field."
Ten years after his retirement in 1960, Newcombe started the Dodgers' Community Relations Department in 1970. He makes dozens of appearances throughout the Los Angeles area each season, speaking to youngsters and participating in the Dodgers' Alumni Association. In that role, he has helped numerous people in their battles against substance abuse.
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