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Don Newcombe, the first truly outstanding black pitcher in Major League Baseball, debuting with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949, where he played with Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, has passed away. He was 92.

Newcombe was the National league Rookie of the Year in 1949, and subsequently was a four-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner, and the league’s MVP in 1956. He also was the first black pitcher ever to start a World Series game. However, his career was cut short by a severe drinking problem, and his decline as an effective pitcher meant that he never received the recognition that many of his teammates believed he deserved.

Later in his life, once he was in recovery, Newcombe became a spokesman for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1970 as director of community relations, and when he passed away he was serving as a special adviser to the Dodger chairman, Mark Walter.

In its obit this morning, the New York Times writes that Newcombe “once said that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King came to his house in the weeks before his assassination in 1968 and told him, ‘I would never have made it as successfully as I have in civil rights if it were not for what you men did on the baseball field’.”
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