Campanella’s Career-Ending Accident

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Information about Campanella is included in the current exhibit, The Old Ball Game, at the North Shore Historical Museum, 140 Glen St., in Glen Cove, which runs through Aug. 19. The museum is open on Wednesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more info, visit www.northshorehistoricalmuseum.org

In late January 1958, baseball player Roy Campanella of the Brooklyn Dodgers was seriously injured in a car accident on Dosoris Lane near Apple Tree Lane in Glen Cove and the story was covered in the paper—a combined edition called the Record and Pilot and The Spotlight at the time—later that week. The Glen Cove resident was driving home from the liquor store he operated in Harlem around 3:30 a.m. on the previous Tuesday in a rented Chevrolet sedan when the car hit a patch of ice while coming around an S-curve and crashed into a telephone pole; his head struck and smashed a window on the right side of the car, causing a broken neck. According to the article, doctors said Campanella would have died if his neck had been broken just an inch higher than it was.

Campanella was taken to Glen Cove Community Hospital, where he underwent surgery on his neck.

The article reports that the accident left the catcher paralyzed from the waist down, he would have to remain in the hospital for six weeks and would have to wear a neck brace for “some time.” Predictions were that he would be up and walking within two months to a year.

However, he was wheelchair-bound for the remainder of his life and the accident ended his playing career. After his stay in Glen Cove, the ballplayer was transferred to Doctors Hospital in New York, where rooms were maintained for injured players by the Dodgers.
In January 1959, Campanella became involved with the Dodgers in a different way, being named the assistant supervisor of scouting for the eastern part of the United States and special coach at the team’s annual spring training camp in Vero Beach, FL, where he served each year as a mentor and coach to young catchers in the Dodger organization.

In 1978, he moved to California and accepted a job as assistant to the Dodgers’ director of community relations. Campanella received the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in the National League three times: in 1951, 1953 and 1955. During his career, he threw out 57 percent of the base runners who tried to steal a base on him, the highest by any catcher in major league history.

In 1955, Campanella had a large role in helping Brooklyn win its first-ever World Series championship. After the Dodgers lost the first two games of the series to the Yankees, Campanella began Brooklyn’s comeback by hitting a two-out, two-run home run in the first inning of game three. The Dodgers won that game, got another home run from Campanella in a game four victory that tied the series, then went on to claim the series in seven games when Johnny Podres shutout the Yankees 2-0 in game seven.

The Brooklyn Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles after the 1957 and became the Los Angeles Dodgers, though Campanella never played a game for Los Angeles.

In 1969, Campanella was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the second player of African American heritage so honored, after Jackie Robinson. The same year, he received the Bronze Medallion from the City of New York.

Information about Campanella is included in the current exhibit, The Old Ball Game, at the North Shore Historical Museum, 140 Glen St., in Glen Cove, which runs through Aug. 19.

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