Thought of the Day 11.19.12 Roy Campanella


“You have to have a lot of little boy in you to play baseball for a living.”
Roy Campanella

English: Brooklyn Dodgers catcher and Hall of ...

English: Brooklyn Dodgers catcher and Hall of Famer . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roy Campanella was born on this day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA in 1921. Today is the 91st anniversary of his birth.

Campanella’s father, John, was an Italian American, his mother, Ida was African-American. The family lived in a rough section of Philly known, ironically as Nicetown. Roy was one of five children. As a kid he did odd jobs like delivering newspapers, shining shoes and cutting grass, to help out with family finances.  He was athletic and loved to play baseball, but he knew that the color barrier meant that would be barred from playing in the Major Leagues. He  “started out on Philadelphia’s sand lots and by the age 15 was signed on to the Negro leagues.” [Biography.com] By 11th grade he dropped out so he could play ball full-time.

For the next decade, Campanella excelled in the segregated world of black baseball, barnstorming on buses across the country and playing winter ball in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. He was such a natural leader and had such an astute baseball mind that he often managed clubs he played for in Latin America. [Gale Encyclopedia of Biography: Roy Campanella]
By 1946 The Dodger’s president Branch Rickey was sewing the seeds for Jackie Robinson and Campanella to break the color barrier. Robinson was sent to the Triple A team in Montreal and Campanella went to Nashua, New Hampshire to play Class B ball. Campanella had been making $500 in the Negro Leagues, but took a pay cut to $150 a month at the new club. He “…was better than a Class B player, …but he knew why he was there. He was part of Rickey’s plan to begin integrating baseball.” [Ibid] He was voted the Eastern League’s MVP.
1972 Los Angeles Dodgers season

1972 Los Angeles Dodgers season (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Campanella followed Robinson into the Majors, making his debut on April 20, 1948. Both men played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The man they called “Campy” was the complete package, leading National League catchers in putouts six times, and clubbing 242 home runs in his 10-year Major League career. From 1948-1957, Roy Campanella was securely anchored behind home plate for the Brooklyn Dodgers. [The Official Roy Campanella Site.]

He played in eight straight All-Star games, starting in 1949  (he, Robinson, Larry Doby and Don Newcombe were the first African-American men to play in the All-Star game.)

He caught in five World Series, won the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1951, 1953, and 1955, and was the first black catcher in Major League Baseball history. In 1969, he joined baseball’s elite with his induction into the Hall of Fame. [The Official Roy Campanella Site.]

List of Pennsylvania state historical markers ...

List of Pennsylvania state historical markers in Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, California after the 1957 Baseball season and Campy was set to go with them, but that was not to be. While driving to his Long Island home late on January 28, 1958 his car hit a patch of ice and skidded into a telephone pole. Campanella was badly injured and left paralyzed from the shoulders down. He eventually regained the use of his arms and hands, but he would never walk again.

Although he couldn’t play he maintained ties with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers hired him as a special instructor, and for 20 years he helped groom many young catchers during spring training. He also worked with disabled people through the Dodgers’ community-service division. He was expert at cheering up people. Campanella once said: “People look at me and get the feeling that if a guy in a wheelchair can have such a good time, they can’t be too bad off after all.” Scully observed: “He looked upon life as a catcher. He was forever cheering up, pepping up, counseling people.” [Gale Encyclopedia of Biography: Roy Campanella]
Campanella wrote his autobiography, It’s Good to Be Alive, in 1969. He was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Roy Campanella died at the age of 71 in Woodland Hills, California.
Catcher Roy Campanella

Catcher Roy Campanella (Photo credit: NedraI)

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About ritalovestowrite

Freelance writer, graphic designer, musician, foodie and Jane Austen enthusiast in Northern Baltimore County, Maryland. As a writer I enjoy both fiction and non fiction (food, travel and local interest stories.) As an advocate for the ARTS, one of my biggest passions is helping young people find a voice in all the performing arts. To that end it has been my honor to give one-on-one lessons to elementary, middle and high school students in graphic design and music. And as JANE-O I currently serve as the regional coordinator for JASNA Maryland and am working on a Regency/Federal cooking project. View all posts by ritalovestowrite

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