Three decades after his crippling accident, Roy Campanella is still getting the most out of life
Three decades after his crippling accident, Roy Campanella is still getting the most out of life
September 23, 1990

The night of Jan. 27, 1958, Roy Campanella was working late at his store, Roy Campanella's Wines and Liquors, at Seventh Avenue and 134th Street in Harlem. He had sent his clerks home early after he had gotten word that his scheduled appearance that night on Harry Wismer's TV sports show had been postponed a week. No need for anyone else to stick around, he had reasoned. As long as I'm here anyway, I'll take care of things.

It had been a busy winter for the Dodgers' star catcher, who was then 36 years old. Only a few weeks before, he had been in Los Angeles with some of the other Dodgers—manager Walter Alston, shortstop Pee Wee Reese, centerfielder Duke Snider, first baseman Gil Hodges and broadcaster Vin Scully—to help sell tickets for the team's first season on the West Coast. Campanella was born in Philadelphia, played virtually all of his ball on the East Coast and became a star in Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, yet he was not exactly mourning the defection of the Bums to Los Angeles. His loyalties were not so much to the borough as to the team and its now maligned (at least in Brooklyn) proprietor, Walter O'Malley.

The Dodgers under Branch Rickey had given Campanella, at the time a nine-year veteran of the Negro leagues, the chance to play major league baseball in 1948, one year after another Dodger, Jackie Robinson, had finally broken the game's color barrier. And O'Malley, the team's president since 1950, had loaned Campy the money to open up his liquor store. The Dodgers were family, and, said Campy, "Where they go, I go." So he had leased a house for himself, his second wife, Ruthe, and their three young children in Redondo Beach, Calif., for the 1958 season.

In fact, Campanella was excited about playing in the Dodgers' temporary home at the L.A. Coliseum, a football and track stadium where the leftfield fence would be only 250 feet from home plate. After winning his third National League MVP Award in 1955, Campy had endured two subpar seasons, hitting only .219 in '56 and .242 in '57, and some observers had dared suggest that the always stocky slugger had ballooned into a fat old man. But Campanella had promised O'Malley he would play at least four more seasons, until the new Dodger Stadium was built. In the meantime, that big screen at the Coliseum looked like just the wake-up call his sleeping bat required.

Campanella was entertaining himself with such thoughts as he closed the store at midnight and, after adding up the night's receipts, locked up and stepped outside into a bitter, snowy early morning.

He had taken his station wagon in for servicing that afternoon, and when, much to his dismay, he had been told the work would take until the next day, he had rented a 1957 Chevrolet sedan. He had noticed that the Chevy, unlike his own car, did not have snow tires. And since there was snow on the ground, he knew that the drive to his new $75,000 house at Morgan's Island, on the north shore of Long Island, would take much longer than the usual 45 minutes. Campanella was a famously cautious driver. "He always drove Larry Doby and me on our barnstorming tours through the South," recalls Campy's old roommate, pitcher Don Newcombe, "and I don't think he ever got so much as a parking ticket."

Campanella was doing about 30 miles an hour on a two-lane blacktop road just outside Glen Cove, within five miles of Morgan's Island, when, entering a turn, the car hit a patch of ice and went into a skid, bouncing off a telephone pole and flipping over. Campanella was slammed against the steering wheel, whip-lashed back and thrown under the dashboard.

The crash awakened Dr. W. Spencer Gurnee, who looked out his bedroom window and saw the overturned car in front of his house. He told his wife to call the police and hurried outside with his medical bag. Campanella, trapped inside the car and fearing a gasoline explosion, had tried to turn off the ignition but found that he was unable to move his arms. He was moaning in agony and fear when Gurnee reached him. The doctor switched off the ignition and gave the accident victim a shot of morphine to ease his pain. He noted that the man did not seem to feel the needle.

Police arrived shortly afterward and, after laboring a full 30 minutes, succeeded in righting the car. There is speculation now that this was a serious mistake, since the jolt could only have complicated and perhaps worsened the driver's injuries. With the car upright, the crowd that had gathered could clearly see who was inside. There was a murmuring among these huddled neighbors and passersby: "It's Campy!"

At Glen Cove Community Hospital, seven doctors operated for four hours and 20 minutes to save Campanella's life. He had a broken neck and a severely damaged spinal cord, but the surgeons declared the operation a success, and a few of them even predicted that the patient would walk again someday. They were wrong.

Campanella spent almost three months in the Glen Cove hospital, and then O'Malley arranged for him to be transferred to the care of Dr. Howard Rusk, director of the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (also known as the Rusk Institute) at New York University in Manhattan. Writing in 1978 in Reader's Digest, Rusk described Campanella as he had first seen him: "His tough muscles were still hard, but his body was as unresponsive as stone. He had slight movement in his wrists and could extend and bend his arms but not his fingers. And those anxious eyes filled with questions about the future."

The great ballplayer—the first catcher in major league history to hit 40 or more homers in a season, the National League's RBI leader in 1953 with 142, a key player on five pennant-winning teams and the 1955 World Series champions—was paralyzed from just below the shoulders. For life.

Rusk spoke to him: "Campy, I don't know whether you're going to get a little back, a lot back—or nothing. Only time will tell. We'll start to train you tomorrow, but there's no magic in this. You will have to work harder than you ever have in your life."

"I'm ready," said Campanella.

"I always say to people that if you're feeling down, just take the elevator to the fourth floor of Dodger Stadium," says former Dodger pitcher Joe Black, "because there you'll find Campy. Now, there's a man who could truthfully say that life's kicked him squarely in the butt. He could be as bitter as anyone alive. But no. What you'll find instead is someone sitting there in his wheelchair smiling away and talking to everyone, reaching out to people and saying, 'Don't you dare feel sorry for me.' I had a friend of mine go up there once, and he came back saying, 'Why, that man just makes you feel so important. He makes you feel good all over.' That's what he does, all right. He just touches your life."

Campy is sitting behind aisle 201, next door to Dodger president Peter O'Malley's enclosed box. On some nights he watches games from inside the box, but then he can't talk to the fans, so most of the time he's outside, seated behind his third wife, Roxie, some of their friends and his attendant, Richard Acosta. When the Dodgers are home, the ball game is pretty much all there is to Campy's day, because it takes four hours for Roxie, a former nurse, and Acosta to get him out of bed, attend to his immediate needs, adjust the various instruments he needs to breathe properly and dress him for the trip by special van to Dodger Stadium.

"He is completely helpless until someone gets him out of bed," says Acosta, 36. "He told me one day, 'Richard, if I hadn't accepted this, I wouldn't be alive today. I had to learn a whole different way of living.' Clothes are important to him. He's very particular about how he's dressed. He's a very determined man, and he always wants to look his best."

"He doesn't look paralyzed at all from the waist up," says Roxie. "He looks nice."

And so he does. This June night he's wearing a blue blazer, a cream-colored sport shirt, light blue slacks and off-white shoes. He looks especially good for someone who spent from last Dec. 30 to April 6 in the Northridge (Calif.) Medical Center for treatment of pneumonia and diabetes and for gallbladder surgery. Campanella missed the Dodgers' spring training at Vero Beach, Fla., for the first time in a dozen years, and he would have missed Opening Day had it not been for the lockout. "I think they held the season up for him on purpose," says Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia, a Campy protègè. Campanella was there when the Dodgers opened at home against the Padres on April 9. He has hardly missed a home game since he and Roxie moved west in 1978. "That s.o.b. is a battler," says Newcombe. "He's the toughest s.o.b. I've ever known."

Campanella's last hospital stay took some weight off him—he's down to about 175 from close to 200 pounds—and his face seems drawn. A respiratory weakness has left him short of breath, and he speaks in a robust whisper that can scarcely be heard above the clamor of 35,000 baseball fans. But he has a smile and a wave for the parade of visitors who seek him out at aisle 201.

A young man walks over from the next section and, looking slightly embarrassed, asks Campy if he knows what the ruling would be if a batter broke his bat hitting the ball and part of the bat hit the ball again before it was fielded. Campanella rolls his eyes. "Seen a lot happen," he says, "but never that."

Tommy Davis, the Dodger batting star of the 1960s, stops by. "It's always a pleasure to be in the company of such a gentleman," Davis says. Campy gives him an owl-eyed look that says, Get outta here.

A well-dressed man slightly older than Campy's 68 years strides up, smiling broadly. "How're ya doin', partner?" he says, clapping a hand on Campanella's shoulder. Campy smiles effusively. His visitor is Al Campanis, who was forced out of his job as a Dodger vice-president in 1987 after he told television interviewer Ted Koppel that blacks lacked the "necessities" to hold executive positions in baseball. As Campanella listens attentively, Campanis tells a story: "You remember the time I played against you [in the minors], and your pitcher, Roy Partlow, knocked me down with a pitch? I was lying there in the dirt, and then you said, 'Get up. We weren't throwing at you. We only throw at good hitters.' " Campy laughs. It is a veteran laugher's laugh, almost a cry.

Campy watches the Dodgers and Astros play. He maneuvers his battery-powered wheelchair back and forth according to the tempo of the game. "Now, that Scioscia," he says, as the catcher comes to bat, "he's easy to work with, very coachable. One trouble with players now is that all they think about is money. But Scioscia listens. For example, when I was playing I always saw to it that I caught the ball in the middle of my body. If the pitch was outside, I'd take the steps to get there, not just reach out for the ball. I'd block that low pitch and keep it in front of me. Biz Mackey, my old manager in the Negro leagues with the Baltimore Elite Giants, was one of the best catchers I've ever seen. He worked with me constantly on my defense, on my throwing. I always had a quick release. I caught with my right hand on my mitt, so I was always ready to throw. It was hard for runners to advance on me. Ain't no man capable of outrunning a baseball if it's thrown fast and thrown right. Nowadays, catchers field the ball one-handed. They try to catch low pitches instead of blocking them."

Campy is no mere house icon. He is in the Dodger Stadium clubhouse before nearly every game, offering counsel and encouragement. "When he speaks, everyone listens," says Scioscia. "He doesn't miss a thing. He'll come in the day after a game and ask me, 'Now why did you call for that pitch when the count was two and two?' What an amazing individual! He's gone through a life that none of us, hopefully, will have to endure, but he's come out of it so strong he makes all the rest of us look like wimps. I just thank God I've had the chance to know him."

Campy works just as hard during spring training, where, says Peter O'Malley, "He makes our day, and we make his."

"Oh, yes," says Campy, "down there, I put on my baseball shirt and my cap, and I'm in this wheelchair, and I'm going all over the place. I get out early and work with the catchers, even the veterans. I don't care how old you are, you'll see something in this game you've never seen before. I tell them what I've seen." He smiles. "Oh, I ride around in my powered chair, all charged up, talking to everybody. I'm all charged up, that is, unless my batteries run down." He hits the red lever that controls his chair and moves closer to the aisle. He stares straight ahead at the field. "This is my life, you know."

Campanella Spent six months at the Rusk Institute. "You go to school there," he says. "You go to two or three classes before lunch and two or three after. You learn how to adjust to the wheelchair, how to get in and out of cars, how to answer the telephone, how to dial the telephone, how to use the adding machine and all the gadgets you need to write and eat with. And then there's the psychological thing. Paralyzed people can get so depressed. Thank goodness, that part of it didn't bother me. When they put me in that wheelchair, I accepted it. For one thing, I was just happy to get out of bed.'

Campanella once told his old battery-mate, Carl Erskine, "This chair is my freedom. It is the only thing in my life I can control." Erskine visited him at the Rusk Institute early in the 1958 season while the Dodgers were playing in Philadelphia. "He was in a special kind of bed with an apparatus holding his head still," Erskine recalls. "Roy and I just looked at each other at first. I think when he saw me, he saw the team, and it saddened him. And then he showed that unbelievable spirit that just dumbfounds people. He started talking about his rehabilitation, how excited he was that they were going to give him the chance to lift a five-pound weight with his right hand. And I remembered how strong that right arm once was, how many base runners I'd seen him throw out with it. There was a painting on the wall, a snow scene. When I looked at it, Roy told me with great enthusiasm that it was painted by one of the patients at the institute, a young boy who held the brush in his teeth. He was so proud of that boy. Roy just loves life, you see, and he's going to get out of it all there is."

On May 7, 1959, he was given leave from the institute to attend Roy Campanella Night at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. The largest crowd in baseball history, 93,103, turned out to honor him. And in the middle of the fifth inning of the night's exhibition game between those old World Series foes, the New York Yankees and the Dodgers, Pee Wee Reese wheeled Campy out between the mound and second base. The Coliseum lights were extinguished, and the huge crowd was asked to light matches for Campy. The crippled catcher sat there in the darkness and looked up as thousands of lights flickered on all round him. "I'll never forget this as long as I live," he said.

Ruthe and the children were with him for the ceremony, but the marriage never recovered from the accident. Campanella was making the terrible adjustment to the restricted life that remained for him, but his wife was not. On Aug. 2, 1960, he filed for a legal separation, citing, among other reasons, adultery. The fine house at Morgan's Island was sold, and Roy moved into an apartment building in Harlem, near his liquor store. And then, in January 1963, nearly five years to the day after his accident, Ruthe died of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was only 40.

"Ruthe dumped [Roy] real fast after he got hurt," says Dodger manager and former Campanella teammate Tommy Lasorda. "And then she died. It makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

Campanella had met Roxie Doles at a basketball game in Harlem's Renaissance Casino in the winter of 1957. Four years later, they found themselves neighbors in the Lenox Terrace apartments after the Campanellas were separated and Roxie was widowed. "I knew how to take care of a paralyzed person from my nursing days," she says. "One day I told him I'd be ready to help anytime he needed me." As it happened, Roy's attendant, Benny Ikard, had been arrested for nonpayment of parking tickets that very day, so Campy really did need her. As the months passed, the need became mutual, and on May 5, 1964, they were married. They moved to a 16-room house in Hartsdale, in suburban Westchester County, with his three children and her two.

Campanella's troubles continued over the years. In the summer of 1976, he returned to the Rusk Institute, suffering from dangerous bedsores. During the next year, the sores required several major operations involving skin grafts and blood transfusions. Campanella was in fragile health, and the eastern winters were becoming, for him, unbearable. Newcombe had long urged him to "get out of that weather" and come to Southern California. And so, in the spring of 1978, Campy called Peter O'Malley. "These winters are getting rough," he said.

"O.K., come on out," said O'Malley, who grew up a Campy fan. "We've got a job for you." The job, as an assistant to Newcombe in the Dodgers' community relations department, was tailor-made for a man who likes nothing better than talking to people. Campanella sold his liquor store and an apartment building that he owned and headed west once more. After 20 years, he was an active Dodger again.

On an april afternoon in 1946, Buzzy Bavasi, then general manager of the Dodgers' Class B farm club in Nashua, N.H., got a most peculiar phone call from Bob Finch, Branch Rickey's secretary. "He told me to meet him in the office of the local newspaper editor at midnight," Bavasi recalls. "Midnight? I wondered what the hell was going on. When I got there, Finch told me Mr. Rickey wanted me to take two players named Campanella and Newcombe. 'Can they play?' I asked him. 'We think they can,' he said. 'Then what's the problem?' I said. 'They're colored,' he said. 'If they can play,' I told him, 'then that's no problem.' "

Rickey had signed the two players in March, not long after Robinson's historic signing, but little publicity had attended Campanella's and Newcombe's arrival on the scene. Robinson would make his high-profile debut in 1946 with Montreal in Triple A ball. The Dodgers were looking for a lesser league for Campy and Newk and having a hard time finding one. The president of the Three-I League—named, perhaps appropriately, Tom Fairweather—had threatened to shut down his entire operation if blacks were assigned to the Dodgers' farm team at Danville, Ill. "Nashua was the only club that would have us," says Newcombe.

Big Newk, a 27-game winner, National League Cy Young winner and MVP in 1956, was 19 at the start of the '46 season and had played two seasons with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. He was 6'4" and could throw hard, but Class B was about where he belonged. Campanella was 24 and had been playing Negro league baseball for nine years.

Newcombe was a teenager when he first faced Campy in a Negro National League game. "My manager told me to knock him down," recalls Newk. "Well, I'm only 17, and I don't know anything, so I throw the first pitch right over his head, thinking that's what they wanted. I throw him one more pitch after that, and he knocks it a mile into the seats."

In 1944, when he was 20 years old, pitcher Joe Black was briefly Campy's teammate on the old Elite Giants—"That's pronounced Eee-light Giants," Black says. "White people always get that wrong." The already veteran catcher, barely three years older than Black, took the young pitcher under his wing. "He was my mentor on and off the field," says Black. "The Negro leagues had their fans, you know, and a lot of them were women. Campy would warn me about all that. He was my tutor. Heck, he played all the positions then—outfield, infield, and he even tried to pitch."

Campanella was a dangerous hitter, and he had had the benefit of Biz Mackey's expert tutelage in the catcher's craft. "I could tell as soon as I saw him play that he was already a great player," says Bavasi, Campy's future boss in Brooklyn. Nashua's playing manager, Walter Alston, saw yet another quality in Campanella—leadership. At a team meeting early in the season, Alston told Campy that since he was older and more experienced than the other players, he would be the assistant manager. "If I'm ever thrown out of a game, I want you to run things," Alston said. Campy got that chance in mid-June when, in the sixth inning of a game with the Lawrence (Mass.) Millionaires, Alston was ejected for arguing a called third strike. Two innings later, with a runner on base and the Dodgers trailing by a run, Campanella called on his roommate, Newcombe (a .311 hitter and 14-game winner that year), to pinch-hit. Newcombe hit a home run to win the game. As the first black manager in organized baseball, Campanella had a perfect 1-0 record.

In 113 games that season, Campy hit .290 With 13 homers and 96 RBIs and led all New England League catchers in putouts and assists. "He was the best player in the league," says Bavasi. "Nobody could touch him." Campy's rookie season in white baseball had been mostly without racial incident, although the Lynn, Mass., team did give him and Newcombe some trouble. Instructed by Rickey to ignore epithets and physical threats, Campanella offered no apparent response when a Lynn batter tossed dirt in his face. "As strong as Roy was, I shudder to think what he could have done to that guy if he'd been allowed to retaliate," says Newcombe. Instead, from behind his mask, Campanella said quietly but in a tone of voice that left no room for misinterpretation, "Don't you ever do that again."

Campanella advanced to Triple A ball the next year and led the International League's catchers in putouts and assists. In 1948 he joined Robinson on the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was, on the heels of the mercurial Jackie, a different sort of black player—tough, yes, but fun-loving, even-tempered and gentle. "He brightened the clubhouse," says Duke Snider. "I know he helped me relax. He'd sit around and tell all those stories about his days in the Negro leagues. He was comical, just great to be around."

Campy's sweet disposition was mixed with uncommon "baseball savvy," as Erskine calls it. "You never shook Campy off," says Don Drysdale. "That's not entirely true," says Erskine, now the president of an Anderson, Ind., bank. "That's because Roy told us to shake him off sometimes. It wasn't that we were disagreeing with his calls. He just wanted us to shake our heads to make the hitter think we were having trouble making up our minds."

Campy also hit 30 or more homers four times and drove in more than 100 runs and hit over .300 three times in his 10-year major league career. And he loved every inning of it.

"To play this game good," Campy used to say, "a lot of you has to be a little boy."

The Campanellas live in a four-bedroom stucco house in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills. The children are all gone. Roy II is a producer in Beverly Hills; Tony is an urban renewal supervisor in Cape May, N.J., and Ruth is a stockbroker in New York City. Roxie's two children, whom Campanella adopted, are Joni Roan, an educational administrator, and John, a security specialist, both of whom live in Los Angeles.

The house is on one level, and the street outside is straight and flat. "Roy can go out and drive his wheelchair all the way around the block," says Roxie. "All the neighborhood children come out to see him. They all love him, and he loves them. It's important for Roy to stay active, to feel independent. I've always kept him busy, because as long as he's with people, he doesn't have time to think about himself. And, you know, he helps other people who've been paralyzed. They come from all over to see him. We get calls and letters. When we were still living in New York, we took in a paralyzed boy who wouldn't take his therapy. Roy got him going, and in no time he'd learned how to feed himself. That boy's doing just fine now. Roy's gone to hospitals, spoken before groups. He's given all kinds of people a new lease on life."

Campanella is in his trophy room. On the wall above him are his three Most Valuable Player plaques, as well as countless other trophies and citations. "At first, I didn't even play high school baseball," he says. "I loved the game, but I was playing football and basketball and running track at Simon Gratz High in the Nice-town section of Philadelphia, where I grew up. Then one day the physical education teacher and baseball coach, George Patchen, asked me to go out for the team. When I reported to him, I noticed there were four circles drawn down on the field—one each for pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders. The other circles were all full of boys. Nobody was standing in the catchers' circle. I figured that was my best chance of making the team, so I stepped into it. I was only in the ninth grade.

"Nicetown was a mixed neighborhood. We were a mixed family. My father, John Campanella, was born in Pennsylvania, but his parents came over from Sicily. He and his brothers owned a grocery store, and we had our own house. My mother, Ida, was a black Baptist, very religious. She wouldn't let me play ball on Sundays. One day when I was walking home from junior high, this boy yelled at me, 'Hey, you half-breed.' I hit him, but I didn't know what he meant by that, so I ran home and asked my mother what a half-breed was. She told me that meant she was black and my father was white. I didn't even know what color my father was. He was just my daddy.

"One day the traveling secretary of the Baltimore Elite Giants came to our house and said he wanted me to play for them. I was only 15, but I was big for my age. Well, it wasn't long before I was playing my first game. Biz Mackey got hit by a foul tip, and Nish Weeb, our second-string catcher, also got hurt. So there I was behind the plate against the Philadelphia Stars out at the 44th and Parkside ballpark. It was a night game, and our pitcher, Bill Byrd, was a spitballer. I'd never caught a spitball in my life, but there I was. Biz said, 'Son, just watch me on the bench. I'll tell you what to do.' And that's what I did."

Roxie leans forward, clasps Campy under the arms and pulls him halfway out of his chair. He is as helpless as a baby in her grasp. But with his head facing straight down, he says, "We have to do this. If I don't get off this chair from time to time, I get pressure and sores and bad blisters, like the ones I had before." Gently, she replaces him in his cushioned seat. His face is expressionless.

Campy motors into the dining room. He looks up at a photograph on the wall. Depicted kneeling on the grass at the perimeter of a diamond formed by four bats is one of the greatest—maybe the greatest—inner defenses in baseball history: Robinson, 2b; Hodges, lb; Campanella, c; Billy Cox, 3b, and Reese, ss. Of that legendary quintet, only Reese and Campanella are still alive.

"When Roy got out of the hospital that first time," says Roxie, "the doctors gave him 10 years to live, 20 at the most. Roy has been in his wheelchair for 32 years. Dr. Rusk died last November." She looks away. "Roy has outlived all of his doctors."

Campy sits on the veranda of the lovely old Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, N.Y., at twilight. Below him on the patio, guests sip cocktails beneath green and white umbrellas. In the fading light the white wakes of speeding motorboats can be seen on the blue-gray surface of Lake Otsego. There is, as yet, no hint of the rainstorm that will descend the next morning and force postponement of the 1990 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Campy, brilliant in a scarlet sport shirt, looks content. He is among old friends.

Of course, he shouldn't really be here at all. Less than two months earlier, in late June, he began having trouble breathing. He was hospitalized for three weeks, during which time a tracheotomy was performed and he was hooked up to an oxygen machine. It's a long, tiring trip from Los Angeles to Coopers-town, but Roy and Roxie have made it. Campy would have it no other way. He has been to every Hall of Fame induction since his own in 1969. The way he figures it: "It's a great honor to be in the Hall of Fame. Baseball has done so much for all of us that it doesn't seem much to set aside one weekend a year to come back here and give some support to the Hall and the fans who come to Cooperstown to see us. After all, when I was a boy growing up, it never dawned on me that I would have such an honor. And yet, here I am."

The Campanella party includes Acosta; Roxie's daughter, Joni; Joni's son, Cary, 13, and her husband, Michael; and Roy and Roxie's old friends from New York City, Judy and Vincent Daquino. Campy is chatting with Vincent when a familiar figure appears on the veranda. "Roy," says Daquino, "there's somebody right behind you who I know you'll want to see."

"You know I can't see behind me."

"How're ya doin', Campy?" says Reese.

Campy laughs. "Well, I do believe I know that voice," he says. "That's my blue-eyed brother." Reese, a 1984 Hall of Fame inductee, pulls up a chair alongside his old teammate.

"You doin' O.K., pal?" Reese asks.

Campy says, "You know, if you haven't experienced it, you'll never know what it's like not being able to breathe. That's something you don't even think about. But a few weeks ago I couldn't do it right. What a feeling when you can't breathe."

Reese pats him on the shoulder and heads off for a television interview on the lawn below. "I'm just amazed he's here," Reese says.

"That man held our team together," Campy says of Reese. "And Jackie...well, he always had that determination, that will to win. He instilled that in all of us." He pauses, anticipating a perhaps inevitable question about his relationship with Robinson. Robinson and Campy were not particularly close, and on a few occasions Robinson intimated that Campy had a bit of Uncle Tom in him. "He was a completely different person from me," Campy says. "I never felt like a pioneer, just like a ballplayer. But we were teammates. We were friends. He was a wonderful athlete. And oh, what a team we had. Jackie, Pee Wee, the Duke, Furillo, Hodges, Newk, Erskine.... We never beat ourselves, you know. Each one of us would lead the league in fielding his position. I don't think you'll ever again find so many good players in one lineup." His eyes shine. "What a great group of guys."

He wheels suddenly away. "Gotta go to a board of directors meeting down the hall."

There is quite a party at the Hall that night. Free food and drink. More than 30 Hall of Famers in one room: Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Robin Roberts, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey...and Campy, looking sharp in a checkered gray suit. About 11 o'clock, the celebrants adjourn to the bar at the Otesaga, where Musial entertains on the harmonica with rousing if repetitious choruses of Wabash Cannonball and Oh! Dem Golden Slippers. The bar crowd and the noise swell as the party-goers return from the Hall. "Oh! dem golden slippers.... Oh! dem...."

Outside in the cooling night air, where moonlight plays on the water and the shadowy evergreens whisper, the singing and the laughter are only a distant drumming. A limousine draws up to the old hotel's service entrance. Two men, Acosta and Daquino, step briskly out of it and begin unfolding a wheelchair. Campanella sits motionless in the back seat, staring dead ahead.

A shaft of moonlight illuminates that still face. There is a look there that one is not likely to forget. Of what? Resignation, perhaps. Patience, yes. Determination, certainly. Courage, to be sure. But there is something else there, something harder to define. Dignity, that's it. Immense, immeasurable dignity. For in that broken body, a man has prevailed.

PHOTOCRAIG MOLENHOUSEIn his trophy room at home, Campy is surrounded by mementos of his illustrious baseball career. PHOTOLIFE PICTURE COLLECTIONCampy learned the catcher's craft with the Elite Giants (above) and honed it with the Dodgers (right). PHOTOAP[See caption above.] PHOTONATIONAL BASEBALL LIBRARYCampy played with passion (left) as (below, from left) he, Doby, Newcombe and Robinson broke new ground. PHOTOACME PHOTO[See caption above.] PHOTORALPH MORSE/LIFEIn '53, Campy managed his Harlem liquor store and had one of his three National League MVP seasons. PHOTOIKE VERNRoy II popped one up in '55 as (from left) siblings Tony and Ruth, mom Ruthe and Dad checked his swing. PHOTOGEORGE SILK/LIFEDuring his rehabilitation after the crash, a determined Campy was able to keep an eye on the sports news. PHOTOROBERT W. KELLEY/LIFEIn '59, Campy joined Walter O'Malley (above, in glasses) at spring training and was honored (below) in L.A. PHOTOJOHN HAMILTON/GLOBE PHOTOS[See caption above.] PHOTOCRAIG MOLENHOUSESince their days as neighbors in New York in the early '60s, Roxie and Roy have been virtually inseparable.

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)