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Roy Campanella Biography

A Born Catcher, An African American First, Chronology, It's Good To Be AliveSELECTED WRITINGS BY CAMPANELLA:

1921-1993

American baseball player

Known as "Campy" by his friends, colleagues, and fans, Roy Campanella is considered by many to be the best baseball catcher in the history of the game. He is often mentioned in the same breath as the great catcher Yogi Berra, who played for the opposing professional league, the American League. Named the National League's Most Valuable Player three times in the 1950s, Campanella was a pioneering African American player at a time of deep racial prejudice that had prevented blacks from playing in the major leagues until only a year before Campanella joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. Campanella played on the same team as the first African American major leaguer, Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947.

Not only was Campanella one of the first African Americans to play in the major leagues, he also paved the way for other blacks to play in the position of catcher, a spot until then still off-limits to non-white players. As former fellow Dodger Dusty Baker later told Larry Whiteside of the Boston Globe, "In the days when he caught, catching was basically a white position…. Catching was a thinking position that most of America didn't think people like Campanella could handle. He broke the mold. Because of the mentality of the country, the mentality of baseball, to be black and an MVP meant he had to be head and shoulders above anybody else in the league."

Campanella's career lasted until 1958, when he was paralyzed in an automobile accident. From then on, a total of 35 years until his death, he was confined to a wheelchair. He managed to stay in the game of baseball, however, as a coach and advocate for young baseball players. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, and he died of a heart attack in 1993.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY CAMPANELLA:

It's Good to Be Alive. Boston: Little Brown & Company, 1959.

Sketch by Michael Belfiore

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Famous Sports StarsBaseball