Roy Campanella Walter O'Malley The Official Website

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Remembering A Hero: A Tribute to Roy Campanella

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Just one year after legendary Jackie Robinson shattered baseball’s color barrier for African-Americans in the “Great Experiment” of 1947, Campanella joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers had won the 1947 National League Pennant. By then, the multi-talented 26-year-old had toiled for years with the Elite Giants and had a brief stint in the Mexican League, before Robinson’s turn-the-other-cheek mentality created an opening for other selected African-Americans to play in the majors. But this was no token addition to the Dodgers.
In 1946, Campy and African-American pitcher Don Newcombe celebrated their first year of “organized baseball” at Nashua, New Hampshire. Campy, who earned $185 a month, performed admirably, causing Dodger President Branch Rickey to advance him to the International League’s Montreal Royals roster for 1947. By 1948, Campanella was promoted to the Dodgers, while his roommate “Big Newk” made his debut in 1949. Campanella was the fourth African-American signed to a contract in “organized baseball” following Robinson, John Wright and Newcombe. He became the first black catcher in Major League Baseball history. In late May of 1948, the Dodgers briefly sent Campy to their St. Paul, MN farm team where he integrated the American Association before his permanent return to the majors.
Well-prepared for the daunting task, Campy delivered (just as he had on his milk route when, as a youngster, he got up at 2 a.m. to make his rounds) and produced big time — 10 successful seasons, helping to lead the Dodgers to five National League Pennants (in 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956) and their first and only World Championship in Brooklyn in 1955.
As teammate Newcombe said about the dawn of the civil rights movement. “Martin Luther King once told me, ‘You’ll never know what you and Jackie (Robinson) and Roy (Campanella) did to make it possible to do my job.’”
Campanella was a mainstay handling the deft Dodger pitching staffs, which included the likes of Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Clem Labine, Preacher Roe, Johnny Podres and Ralph Branca. But, it was on offense where Campanella also shined with his powerful swing. Seldom was he cheated at home plate. Campy was rewarded with National League All-Star status on eight occasions.

A pillar of strength, catcher Roy Campanella joined the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1948 season following a stint in their minor league system with Nashua, NH and Montreal. As one of the first four African-Americans to be signed into Major League Baseball, Campanella was well-prepared for the opportunity having previously played in the Negro Leagues and Mexican League.

Roy Campanella (far right) celebrating with teammates Jackie Robinson (left) and Joe Black at the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 1952 National League Pennant victory party at the Hotel Bossert.

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