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Roy Campanella's Firsts

Published: 11/19/2011

Roy Campanella (Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)Roy Campanella wasn't the first black man to play Major League Baseball – that honor, of course, went to Jackie Robinson. But Campanella was hot on Robinson's heels, and he had his own share of accomplishments. In celebration of what would have been his 90th birthday, we look at a few accomplishments of this baseball trailblazer.

Nashua Dodgers: After some years in the Negro leagues and the Mexican League, Campanella – along with Jackie Robinson – moved to the minor leagues, as the Brooklyn Dodgers and MLB prepared for integration. The Dodgers sent Robinson to Quebec to play with the AAA Montreal Royals. Meanwhile, a search for the best minor league team for Campanella turned up the Nashua Dodgers. He signed with them in 1946, making the New Hampshire team the first integrated professional baseball team in the United States in the 20th century. Campanella also became the first African-American player in the New England League.

Team Manager: During Campanella's first season with Nashua, manager Walter Alston was ejected from a game. Campanella took over his managerial duties, making him the first black man to manage white players in a professional baseball game.

All-Star: Roy Campanella joined Jackie Robinson on the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948, a year after Robinson's MLB debut. The following year, Campanella was selected for the All-Star team, making him one of the four first African Americans to be All-Stars (along with Robinson, Don Newcombe and Larry Doby).

World Series: In 1955, Campanella helped drive the Dodgers to their first ever World Series win. His two-run home run at the beginning of Game Three was the beginning of the Dodgers' comeback after losing the first two games. Another home run from Campanella in Game Four took the Dodgers further toward clinching the title.



Sadly, Campanella didn't get a change to blaze any more trails – in 1958, he was paralyzed in an automobile accident. Though he eventually regained some motion, he would never play baseball again. But the lifelong lover of the game didn't stay out of baseball – he became a scout for the Dodgers (by then, based in Los Angeles) and later worked as assistant to the Dodgers' director of community relations. In 1969, Campanella became a Hall of Famer – he wasn’t the first African American to receive that honor, but a very impressive second.

Written by Linnea Crowther



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