Willie Doria, Spanish American Baseball Star in Texas, Dies at 96

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This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Willie Doria picked up a baseball bat and came to the plate at a 1989 reunion game for the Spanish American Baseball League in San Antonio, Texas. When the pitcher, who had good speed, sent a fastball down the middle, Mr. Doria knocked it straight out of Sanchez-Spencer Memorial Park.

He was 65 years old.

“A true home run hitter,” Joe Sanchez, a longtime friend, said.

Mr. Doria joined the league in 1946, playing for several teams over a decade, and brought home the championship four years in a row. The amateur circuit, which existed in some form from 1926 to 2005, was a cornerstone of San Antonio baseball and an important home for Hispanic ballplayers.

Mr. Doria died on July 8 in San Antonio, after contracting the novel coronavirus, his granddaughter Cheyenne Doria said. He was 96.

William Martinez Doria Jr. was born in the city on April 1, 1924, to William Doria, a laborer, and Susie Martinez Doria, a homemaker. He enlisted in the Navy in 1942, serving as an aircraft mechanic on the U.S.S. Saratoga aircraft carrier in World War II and was discharged at the war’s end. While he was playing in the Spanish American League, he worked at a wholesale produce firm.

In 1957 he enlisted in the Air Force, where he worked for four years on a secret surveillance aircraft in various parts of the country, his family said (he rarely talked about the job), before returning to San Antonio, where he worked for another 20 years at the Kelly Air Force Base, now called Kelly Field, as an aircraft mechanic in flight operations.

“The Air Force, baseball and his family were his passions,” another granddaughter, April Martinez, said. “He would light up even just watching his great-grandchildren.”

In retirement, he returned to his baseball roots: Mr. Doria worked for 26 years as an usher at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium, home of the San Antonio Missions minor league club. He branched out into basketball, working as an usher for the San Antonio Spurs of the N.B.A., first at the Alamodome and then the AT&T Center.

At Missions games, he was a friendly fixture for the players and coaches, their families and fans. Until the coronavirus pandemic shuttered sports, he could be found at his usual perch, a seat by the entrance to the dugout on the third-base side.

His two grandchildren, Ms. Martinez and Ms. Doria, who grew up in the house with their grandparents, went to Missions games with their grandfather, where they could run freely around the stadium and meet the players and their families.

“He ruled that place, to be honest,” Ms. Doria said.

Along with Ms. Doria and Ms. Martinez, he is survived by three children, Andrew, Samuel and Catherine Doria; a brother, Vic; a sister, Consuelo Doria Rocha; and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Mary, died in 2002.

He always attended the reunion games of the Spanish American league, as long as his buddy Mr. Sanchez was there.

“He was so magnetic,” said Mr. Sanchez, the son of “Sandy” Sanchez, Mr. Doria’s first coach and namesake of Sanchez-Spencer Memorial Park. He would talk to patrons about anything, Mr. Sanchez said, “but almost always baseball. He loved baseball.”


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