No matter what your baseball card says, Larry Doby is a member of the Cleveland Indians.

It’s been that way since Doby debuted with the Tribe on July 5, 1947, to make him the first black player in American League history.

And it continued all the way through his Cooperstown enshrinement in 1998.

In between, Doby spent 13 seasons in the American League, hitting .285 with 261 home runs and 1011 RBI, enough to amount to about 50 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

And along the way, he became an Indians legend, one who garnered nine All-Star selections and helped Cleveland win their last (so far) World Series in 1948.

After he retired in 1959, Doby spent time in Japan, as well as in the dugout, before moving into a series of roles in the NBA and in the American League office.

But when you think of Larry Doby, “Cleveland Indians” isn’t far behind.

The truth is, though, that even with his unbreakable Tribe ties, Doby wasn’t always tethered to the team by the lake.

Indeed, like every other great black player through the late ‘40s, Doby got his start in professional baseball in the Negro Leagues, starring for the Newark Eagles for four-plus seasons before moving over to the Indians.

And then, after the 1955 season, the unthinkable happened — the Indians traded their All-Star centerfielder to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Jim Busby and Chico Carrasquel.

Doby didn’t slow down on Chicago’s southside, continuing his double-digit homer ways, and still driving in plenty of runs in 1956 and 1957.

Even so, as the ChiSox jostled to put together the roster that would eventually lead them into the 1959 World Series, they sent Doby to the Baltimore Orioles in November of ‘57 as part of a six-player trade.

But before Doby could ever take the field for the O’s in a real game, they swapped him on April 1, 1958, as part of a five-player deal. Their trading partner in that one?

None other than the Cleveland Indians.

And so, entering the 1958 season, 34-year-old Larry Doby headed “home,” and all was right with the world.

That summer, Doby took up his old position in centerfield … though only for 60 games. Still, he made it into 89 contests in all and managed another 13 home runs and 45 RBI in support of his .283 batting average.

Doby’s outfield mates that season were Rocky Colavito in right, who clubbed 41 home runs, and Minnie Minoso in left, who generated 24 dingers of his own.

It was a combo that spelled destruction for pitchers all across the league.

An it was a combo that also spelled destruction for Topps when they were putting together their 1959 set:

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A sight to make Indians’ fans hearts jump for joy, right?

Well, it should have been, but …

On March 21, 1959, just as another new season dawned, the Indians again traded Doby, this time to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Tito Francona.

And so, as Cleveland collectors pulled card #166 from their packs, they were surely conflicted — tickled to be holding such a gorgeous hunk of team history, but pained by the reality of the situation.

Topps drove the spike even deeper through loyal Tribe hearts later that summer when they released Doby’s base card at #455, showing him with the Tigers.

But even at that, mere cardboard was no match for the whims of baseball fortune, as the Tigers dealt Doby in May … to the White Sox.

For $30,000.

There in Chicago, Doby played his last 21 games, logging his final MLB appearance on July 26, 1959.

So Doby never really did have an accurate 1959 card.

And, with such an early finish to his season — and career — also never had a career-capper card.

He did have a 1959 card that set the record straight for all-time, though, and one that’s popular enough still today to fetch about $100 in PSA 8 condition and $400 or more in PSA 9.

But the real value of the Destruction Crew?

It reminds us, once and for all, that Larry Doby is a Cleveland Indian.

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