Roy Campanella

Catcher

Class of 1969

Roy Campanella

Catcher

Class of 1969
It was a career started late due to the color of his skin, and ended early after a tragic auto accident. In between, Roy Campanella blazed across the baseball landscape with 10 years of catching perfection.

Games

Birth year

About Roy Campanella

“To play this game good, a lot of you has to be a little boy.” – Roy Campanella

It was a career started late due to the color of his skin, and ended early after a tragic auto accident.

In between, Roy Campanella blazed across the baseball landscape with 10 years of catching perfection.

“Nobody discovered Campanella,” said Dodgers scout Clyde Sukeforth, who recommended Campanella to the Dodgers. “We looked at him and there he was.

“There was never any question about his ability.”

Born Nov. 19, 1921 in Philadelphia, Pa., Campanella began playing professional baseball at the age of 15 and went on to star for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro National League. He spent eight years in the Negro Leagues before the Dodgers signed him to a contract in 1946 after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in organized baseball.

He played for Nashua in the Class B New England League that summer, then made the jump to Triple-A Montreal in 1947. In 1948, Campanella began the season in the American Association with St. Paul, hitting 11 home runs in his first 24 games. By midseason, he was the Dodgers’ regular catcher.

“More than one observer has likened Campanella’s quickness behind the plate to that of a cat,” wrote Tom Meany of the New York World-Telegram. “He can pounce on bunts placed far out in front of the plate and he gets his throws away with no wasted motion.”

At the plate, Campanella quickly established himself as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. In his first full season with the Dodgers in 1949, Campanella hit 22 home runs and drove in 82 runs en route to the first of eight straight All-Star Game selections.

In 1951, Campanella won the National League Most Valuable Player Award while hitting .325 with 33 home runs and 108 RBI. He won his second MVP in 1953 while driving in a record (since broken) 142 runs as a catcher, then grabbed a third MVP award in 1955 while leading the Dodgers to their first World Series title.

His production dropped during the 1956 and 1957 seasons, but Campanella appeared energized by the Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles before the 1958 season. Shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 28 of that year, however, Campanella lost control of a rented car on a patch of ice on an S-curve near his home of Glen Cove, N.Y.

Campanella suffered a broken fifth vertebra in his back, costing him almost complete use of his body below the shoulders.

He finished his 10-year career with the Dodgers with 242 home runs, 856 RBI and five postseason appearances. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, and passed away on June 26, 1993.

The Basics

Year inducted
1969
Birth Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Birth Year
1921
Died
1993, Woodland Hills California

Career at a Glance

Primary Team
Brooklyn Dodgers
Primary Position
Catcher
Bats
Right
Throws
Right
Played For
Baltimore/Washington Elite Giants, 1937-1942
Baltimore/Washington Elite Giants, 1944-1945
Philadelphia Stars, 1944
Brooklyn Dodgers, 1948-1957

Career MLB Stats

Games
1,430
At bats
4,951
Runs
771
Hits
1,401
Doubles
226
Triples
30
Home Runs
260
RBI
1,017
Stolen Bases
34
Walks
605
Batting Average
.283
Ops
.862
On Base %
.363
Slugging %
.498

Roy Campanella Stories

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