If you can’t trust an encyclopedia, what can you trust?
In Russ Schneider’s Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia, the former Plain Dealer Indians beat writer wrote that when Hank Greenberg became the team’s farm director in 1949, outfielder Larry Doby (the second player to break baseball’s color barrier when he was signed by the Indians in 1947) encouraged him to seek out and sign three budding talents he played with in the Negro Leagues: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks.
Of course, they didn’t, which means that not only did the Indians let the great Rocky Colavito and home run-happy Roger Maris slip away, but they could have had Aaron, Mays and Banks, too. In 2002, USA Today: Sports Weekly wrote about the story, which piqued the interest of baseball writer Bill Deane.
“This is the kind of story which reeks of mythology if you stop to think about it,” he says.
Deane researched the myth ... and debunks it in his 2015 book Baseball Myths: Debating, Debunking, and Disproving Tales from the Diamond. He writes that when Doby last played in the Negro Leagues in 1947, Banks and Mays were only 16 years old, and Aaron just 13. Deane says Doby couldn’t have possibly played with any of the players, and he points out that Banks, Mays and Aaron weren’t available for scouting in 1949.
Mays debuted for the New York Giants in 1951, Banks for the Chicago Cubs in 1953 and Aaron for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954.
“I’m confident this never happened,” he says, “at least not the way it was presented.”
Read More: Click here to read the full list of 30 Myths That Define Cleveland