All Time Lists: 20 Greatest Players of the Negro Leagues

Brooklyn Dodgers catcher and Hall of Famer Roy Campanella.
(Source: Bowman Gum) Brooklyn Dodgers catcher and Hall of Famer Roy Campanella.

Roy “Campy” Campanella, Catcher

Roy Campanella (November 19, 1921 – -June 26, 1993), was born in Philadelphia, and is considered to be one of the greatest catchers in baseball.

He began playing for the Washington Elite Giants in 1937, and after they moved to Baltimore the following year he blossomed into one of their star players.  In 1942 and 1943, he played in with the Monterrey Sultans in the Mexican League.

He was discovered by Branch Rickey, and entered the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league system in 1946. During his stint, he took over for manager Walter Altson who had been ejected, making Campanella the first black person to manage white players in a professional baseball game. In that game, they were down by three runs, but he put Don Newcombe in as a pinch hitter, who scored a tying home run and led the team to victory.

After Jackie Robinson survived his first season in baseball, Campy began his career with the Dodgers on April 20, 1948. He was their permanent catcher from that day until 1957. He played in every All=Star game from 1949 to 1956, being one of the first four black All-Stars in 1949 (with Robinson, Doby, and Newcombe). During his career, he was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1951, 1953, and 1955, and in each of those years he batted more than .300, hit more than 30 home runs and had more than 100 RBIs. He is also the all-time record holder of having a 57% of throwing out base runners attempting to steal.

Campanella was also remembered for his contributions to the Dodgers 1955 World Series victory. After losing the first two games to the Yankees, Campanella started a come back by hitting a two-out, two-run homer in the first inning of Game 3. He homered in the 4th game, helping to tie the series 2-2. The Dodgers claimed the title with Johnny Podres shut out in the deciding Game 7.

Unfortunately, Campanella’s baseball career was cut short when he had an automobile accident near his home in Glen Cove, New York, on January 28, 1958. His car slid on ice, and overturned into a telephone pole. His neck was broken between the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae, and he became partially paralyzed the rest of his life.

After his playing career ended, he continued working for the Dodgers as a scout, a minor league mentor and coach, and finally as assistant to the Dodgers Director of Community Relations. He was the second African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, after his teammate Jackie Robinson. He passed of heart failure at the age of 71 in his home in Woodland Hills, California.

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