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Roy Campanella

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim all-time roster]]ed |bgcolor1=#083c6b |bgcolor2=#083c6b |textcolor1=white |textcolor2=white |name=Roy Campanella |image=Roy-campanella.png |position=Catcher |bats=Right |throws=Right |birthdate=November 19, 1921 |deathdate=June 26 1993 (aged 71) |debutdate=April 20 |debutyear=1948 |debutteam=Brooklyn Dodgers |finaldate=September 29 |finalyear=1957 |finalteam=Brooklyn Dodgers |stat1label=AVG |stat1value=.276 |stat2label=HR |stat2value=242 |stat3label=RBI |stat3value=856 |teams=


  • All-star from 1949-1956
  • NL MVP in 1951, 1953, 1955
  • Led NL in RBI's in 1953 with 142

|hofdate=1969 |hofvote=79.41% }}

Roy Campanella (November 19, 1921June 26, 1993), nicknamed "Campy", was an American baseball player — primarily at the position of catcher — in the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Widely considered to have been one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game[1], Campanella played for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1940s and 1950s, as one of the pioneers in breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. His Hall of Fame career was cut short in 1958 when he was paralyzed in an automobile accident.

Playing careerEdit

Negro LeagueEdit

Campanella's father was of Italian descent; his mother was African American. Therefore, he was barred from Major League Baseball prior to 1947 — the season that non-white players were admitted to the Major Leagues for the first time since the 19th Century. Campanella began playing Negro League baseball for the Washington Elite Giants in 1937, at the age of 15. The Elite Giants would move to Baltimore the following year[1], and Campanella would go on to become a star player with the team. He also spent some time playing Mexican League baseball.

Minor leagueEdit

In 1946, Campanella moved into the Brooklyn Dodgers' minor league system, as the Dodger organization began preparations to break the Major Leagues' color barrier with Jackie Robinson. For the 1946 season, Robinson was assigned to the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' affiliate in the Class AAA International League. Meanwhile, the team looked to assign Campanella to a Class B league. After the general manager of the Danville Dodgers of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League reported that he did not feel that league ready for racial integration, the organization sent Campanella, along with pitcher Don Newcombe to the Nashua Dodgers of the Class B New England League, where the Dodgers felt the racial climate would be more tolerant. The Nashua team thus became the first professional baseball team to field a racially integrated lineup in the United States in the 20th Century.

Campanella's 1946 season proceeded largely without racial incident, and in one game Campanella took over the managerial duties after manager Walter Alston was ejected. This made Campanella the first African-American to manage white players on an organized professional baseball team. Nashua was three runs down at the time Campanella took over. They came back to win, in part due to Campanella's decision to use Newcombe as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. Newcombe hit a game-tying two-run home run.

Major LeagueEdit

Jackie Robinson's first season in the Major Leagues came in 1947, and Campanella began his Major League career with the Brooklyn Dodgers the following season. Campanella's first game was on April 20, 1948. He went on to play for the Dodgers from 1948 through 1957 as their regular catcher. In 1948, he had three different uniform numbers (33, 39, and 56) before settling down to number 39 for the rest of his career.

Campanella played in the All-Star Game every year from 1949 through 1956 except his MVP year of 1955, when he was sidelined by a knee injury. His 1949 All-Star selection made him one of the first four African-Americans so honored. (Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe and Larry Doby were also All-Stars in 1949.)[2] Campanella received the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in the National League three times: in 1951, 1953, and 1955. In each of his MVP seasons, he batted over .300, hit over 30 home runs and had over 100 runs batted in.

In 1953, Campanella hit 40 home runs in games in which he appeared as a catcher, a record that lasted until 1996, when it was broken by Todd Hundley. Campanella said a record for cathcers with 142 rbi's (2 of them coming as a pinch-hitter). Johnny Bench drove in 148 runs for Cincinnati NL in 1970, but several of them were in games at other defensive positions (outfield, 1st base, 3rd base). It were also this feat which earned Campanella a mention in Billy Joel's history-themed song "We Didn't Start the Fire".

In 1955, Campanella's third MVP season helped propel Brooklyn to its long-awaited first-ever World Series Championship. After the Dodgers dropped the first two games of that year's World Series to the Yankees, Campanella began Brooklyn's comeback by hitting a two-out, two-run home run in the first inning of Game 3. The Dodgers won that game, got another home run from Campanella in a Game 4 victory that tied the series, and then went on to claim the series in seven games.

After the 1957 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles, California, and became the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Campanella's playing career came to an end before he ever played a game there.

Auto accidentEdit

Campanella lived in Long Island while owning a liquor store in Harlem, which he also operated during the baseball off-season. On January 28, 1958, after closing the store for the night, he began his drive home to Long Island. However, before he arrived, his car hit a patch of ice, skidded into a telephone pole and overturned.

The accident left Campanella paralyzed from the chest down. Through physical therapy, he eventually was able to gain substantial use of his arms and hands. He was able to feed himself, shake hands, and gesture while speaking, but he would be confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.

Baseball honorsEdit

In May 1959, the Dodgers, then playing their second season in Los Angeles, honored Campanella with Roy Campanella Night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The New York Yankees agreed to make a special trip to Los Angeles to play an exhibition game against the Dodgers for the occasion. The attendance at the game was 93,103, still the largest crowd ever to attend a Major League Baseball game. The Yankees won the game, 6-2.

In 1969, Campanella was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame along with Stan Musial, the second player of African American (Negro) heritage so honored, after Jackie Robinson.

On June 4, 1972, the Dodgers retired Campanella's uniform number 39 alongside Robinson's (42) and Sandy Koufax's (32).

In an article in Esquire magazine in 1976, sportswriter Harry Stein published an article called the "All Time All-Star Argument Starter," a list of five ethnic baseball teams. Campanella was the catcher on Stein's black team.

In 1999, Campanella ranked number 50 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Post-playing careerEdit

File:Willie Mays and Roy Campanella NYWTS.jpg

After his playing career, Campanella did community and radio & TV work for the New York Mets(and at times the New York Yankees), and was later involved with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He attended the team's annual spring training in Vero Beach, Florida, serving each year as a mentor and coach to young catchers in the Dodger organization. In 1978, he moved to California and took a job as assistant to the Dodgers' director of community relations, Campanella's former teammate and longtime friend Don Newcombe.

In 1993, Campanella died of a heart attack at his home in Woodland Hills, California. He was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

His widow, Roxie, died of cancer in 2004.

In 2006, Campanella was featured on a United States postage stamp [3]. The stamp is one of a block of four honoring baseball sluggers, the others being Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, and Mel Ott.

In September 2006, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced the creation of the Roy Campanella Award, which is voted among the club's players and coaches and is given to the Dodger who best exemplifies "Campy's" spirit and leadership. Shortstop Rafael Furcal was named the inaugural winner of the award.

Personal lifeEdit

Campanella was married three times. He married Bernice Ray in 1939, with whom he had two daughters. They divorced a few years later. On April 30, 1945, he married Ruthe Willis. They had three children. Their marriage was never the same after he was paralyzed, though. They separated in 1960 and Ruthe died in January of 1963. On May 5, 1964, Campanella married Roxie Doles, who survived him in death.


The book Carl Erskine's Tales from the Dodgers Dugout: Extra Innings (2004) includes short stories from former Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine. Campanella is prominent in many of these stories.

In October 2006, Simon & Schuster announced plans to publish a new biography of Campanella to be written by Neil Lanctot, author of Negro League Baseball - The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution.

It's Good to Be AliveEdit

Campanella himself authored the inspirational book It’s Good to Be Alive, which details his journey back from the near-fatal car accident that left him paralyzed. The book mentions the years of tireless efforts by physical therapist Sam Brockington which allowed Campanella to regain some use of his arms, eventually overcome his initial bitterness about his fate, and finally adopt an optimistic outlook on life. Michael Landon made his TV-movie directorial debut in the 1974 movie It’s Good to Be Alive, in which Campanella was portrayed by Paul Winfield.

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. Ott, Tim (2002-07-17). All-time unpredictable fantasy leaguers. Major League Baseball. Retrieved on 2007-06-29.

Sources Edit

  • Campanella, Roy. It's Good to Be Alive, New York: Little Brown and Co., 1959
  • Daly, Steve. Dem Little Bums: The Nashua Dodgers, Concord, NH: Plaidswede Publishing, 2002
  • Roper, Scott C., and Stephanie Abbot Roper. "'We're Going to Give All We Have for this Grand Little Town': Baseball Integration and the 1946 Nashua Dodgers" Historical New Hampshire, Spring/Summer, 1998
  • Tygiel, Jules. Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997
  • Young, A.S. (Andrew Sturgeon). Great Negro Baseball Stars, and How They Made the Major Leagues, New York: A. S. Barnes, 1953.

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