Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Remembering Roy Campanella

Remembering Roy Campanella

By Mike Silva ~ January 30th, 2010. Filed under: Brooklyn Dodgers, NY Baseball Memories.

This town has seen great catchers through the years. Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, Gary Carter, Jorge Posada, and Mike Piazza are just a few that come to mind. Roy Campanella is always one that I seem to forget. Maybe it’s because his career ended in 1957, or that so many great players donned the tools of ignorance in this city.

I came across a great website, which I added to the “resources” sidebar, called Today in Baseball. Essentially, the site gives you an historical fact about the game each day. It was earlier this week, on Jan 28th, it was 42 years ago that Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella was injured in a car crash coming home from his Harlem Liquor store. Yes, Campy as they called him, had to work a job during the offseason to make ends meet. Although he survived, the crash paralyzed him from the shoulders down.

His career started late, making his debut as the age of 26 in 1948, but he would win 3 NL MVP’s during his 10 seasons. During his prime (51-55), Campanella would average 29 HR, 101 RBI, an OPS+ of 134, and an OPS over .900. Don’t forget his defense as he was routinely over 50% throwing out base runners, and was considered one of the leaders of those great Brooklyn Dodger teams.

The MLB Network did a great tribute to Campanella last night. In 1959, the Dodgers, now in Los Angeles, put together an exhibition game against the Yankees to help pay for Campanella’s medical expenses. A crowd of 93,103 came to honor a player that never donned a uniform in Los Angeles. According to The Baseball Page, The emotional Campanella addressed the crowd from his wheelchair, stating: “I thank God that I’m living to be here. I thank every one of you from the bottom of my heart.” After concluding his remarks, the lights went out and everyone in attendance lit a match to honor his courage.

Campanella would spend the rest of his career working for the Dodgers in the community. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, and died of a heart attack in 1993 at the age of 71.

That five year prime is right up there with the aforementioned great catchers, even Posada and Piazza, who played in offensive eras. When you combine offense and defense is it crazy to say he could be the best catcher in New York history? Certainly he should be a player that we at least remember this week.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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