Position: Catcher
Teams: Baltimore Elite Giants, 1937-1942, 1944-1945; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1948-1957

Roy Campanella
After being paralyzed in a car crash
during the winter between the 1957 and
1958 seasons, Roy Campanella
never played baseball again.

Roy Campanella -- with Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe -- was a pioneering black ballplayer who boosted a Dodger organization that to this day is acknowledged as one of the top teams in baseball history.

Born in Philadelphia, as a youngster Roy Campanella (1921-1993) decided to become a catcher because no one else had signed up for that position in school. He played well enough that in 1937, the 15-year-old backstop was catching on the weekends for the semipro Bacharach Giants. He moved to the Baltimore Elite Giants, with whom he played most of his career in the Negro Leagues. By the mid-1940s, Campy challenged Josh Gibson as the best catcher in the Negro Leagues.

Campanella was approached about signing with the Brooklyn organization late in 1945 but was unwilling because he thought that he would be playing with the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers Negro League team. Eventually, Campanella was convinced to sign and played the 1946 season with Class-B Nashua, where he was the Eastern League MVP. In 1947, he was the International League MVP while with Montreal.

Campy was a success from the day he arrived in Brooklyn in mid-1948. The stocky catcher had a rocket for an arm, a powerful bat, and guided a legendary pitching staff to five pennants in 10 years. Campanella was a prime reason the 1950s Dodgers were the exceptional team in the NL. In 1951, Camp­­anella won the first of three Most Valuable Player Awards, a feat accomplished by only a tiny group of stars. He batted .325 with 33 homers and 108 RBI. His 1953 MVP season was among the best ever recorded by a catcher, as he led the league with 142 RBI, clubbed 41 homers, scored 103 runs, and batted .312.

In spring training of 1954, Campy chipped a bone in his left hand, which caused nerve damage; and he hit only .207 in 111 games that year. He rebounded in 1955 to win his third MVP Award by batting .318 with 32 homers and 107 RBI. Starting in 1956, the hand injury of 1954 began to cause him more trouble, and his hitting suffered further decline in 1957. He hoped for a return to form in 1958, but it never happened. Campanella was paralyzed in a car crash during the winter between the 1957 and 1958 seasons, and he never played again. Confined to a wheelchair, he eventually went to work for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Inducted in 1969, Campy summed up his love for the game by saying, “You got to be a man to play baseball for a living, but you got to have a lot of little boy in you, too.”

Here are Roy Campanella's negro league totals*:

BA

G

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

SB

.334

18

631

211

41

12

18

10

*Note: Campanella's negro league career statistics are incomplete.

And his major league totals:

BA

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

.276

1,215

4,205

627

1,161

178

18

242

856

25

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