Synopses & Reviews
Neil Lanctots biography of Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella—filled with surprises—is the first life of the Dodger great in decades and the most authoritative ever published.
Born to a father of Italian descent and an African- American mother, Campanella wanted to be a ballplayer from childhood but was barred by color from the major leagues. He dropped out of school to play professional ball with the Negro Leagues Washington (later Baltimore) Elite Giants, where he honed his skills under Hall of Fame catcher Biz Mackey. Campy played eight years in the Negro Leagues until the major leagues integrated. Ironically, he and not Jackie Robinson might have been the player to integrate baseball, as Lanctot reveals. An early recruit to Branch Rickeys “Great Experiment” with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Campy became the first African-American catcher in the twentieth century in the major leagues. As Lanctot discloses, Campanella and Robinson, pioneers of integration, had a contentious relationship, largely as a result of a dispute over postseason barnstorming.
Campanella was a mainstay of the great Dodger teams that consistently contended for pennants in the late 1940s and 1950s. He was a three-time MVP, an outstanding defensive catcher, and a powerful offensive threat. But on a rainy January night in 1958, all that changed. On his way home from his liquor store in Harlem, Campy lost control of his car, hit a utility pole, and was paralyzed below the neck. Lanctot reveals how Campanellas complicated personal life (he would marry three times) played a role in the accident. Campanella would now become another sort of pioneer, learning new techniques of physical therapy under the celebrated Dr. Howard Rusk at his Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. As he gradually recovered some limited motion, Campanella inspired other athletes and physically handicapped people everywhere.
Based on interviews with dozens of people who knew Roy Campanella and diligent research into contemporary sources, Campy offers a three-dimensional portrait of this gifted athlete and remarkable man whose second life after baseball would prove as illustrious and courageous as his first.
andlt;Bandgt;ROY CAMPANELLA andlt;/Bandgt;was the backbone of the great Brooklyn Dodgers teams of the late 1940s and 1950s, alongside such other Hall of Famers as Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider. An outstanding defensive catcher and a powerful slugger, Campy won the National League MVP Award three times. But everything changed on a rainy January night in 1958 when Campyand#8217;s car skidded off the road and he was left paralyzed below the neck. For the second time in his life, Roy Campanella would become a pioneer, this time off the field. Neil Lanctotand#8217;s andlt;Iandgt;Campy andlt;/Iandgt;is the magnificent, authoritative biography of this exuberant, gifted athlete.
Now in paperback—the “first truly comprehensive” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) biography of one of the sporting world’s most inspiring and courageous figures and one of the greatest catchers in baseball history: “Rich and thoroughly enjoyable” (Los Angeles Times).
In his ten-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, “Campy,” as he was universally known, won the National League Most Valuable Player award three times, in 1951, 1953, and 1955—the year he helped the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series.
Campanella planned to go to Los Angeles with the Dodgers. But in the early morning hours of January 28, 1958, his car skidded off the road on Long Island, and Campy became a quadriplegic. But Campanella maintained an optimistic, undaunted attitude, and in the decades that followed he became a hero to many who had never seen him play baseball and a pioneer in rehabilitative physical therapy.
Lanctot tells what most likely happened the night of that terrible accident and provides new details about Campanella’s strained relationship with teammate Jackie Robinson—with whom he was inevitably compared even though the two had little in common.
About the Author
Neil Lanctot is an historian who has written extensively about baseball.andnbsp;He is the author of two books, most recently andlt;i andgt;Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institutionandlt;/iandgt;.andnbsp; His writing has also appeared in the andlt;i andgt;Philadelphia Inquirerandlt;/iandgt;, andlt;i andgt;Baltimore Sunandlt;/iandgt;, and several other journals and anthologies.andnbsp; He lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania.