AT NIGHTFALL: THE ROY CAMPANELLA STORY

"My father had a zen approach to life," says Roy Campanella II, and this episode celebrates the unsurrendering joy and courage that enabled Roy Campanella to excel at the game and to build a second life when that game was taken away from him. The son of an Italian immigrant and an African-American mother, Campy's rise to fame began on the bologna circuit of the Negro Leagues. In his last interview before his death, Campanella recounts those rough and tumble days of bus rides and wide-eyed eagerness.

Negro League great Buck O'Neil recalls the young catcher who would become one of the major league greats. "We all kind of spoiled the boy, really," he says. "Because he could play." Campy shares the record of three MVP awards as a catcher with Yogi Berra. This show traces Campanella's rise to fame in the Big Town, his enigmatic meeting with Branch Rickey, and his problems being accepted by some white pitchers. There was tension, too, between him and teammate Jackie Robinson, who disliked Campanella's more philosophical approach to the prejudice they encountered. "He'd get impatient with Campy," says Rachel Robinson, "because he wanted him to speak up more. Campy would get impatient with Jack because he thought he spoke up too much." In St. Louis, the impatient Robinson forced the integration of the Chase Hotel while Campanella elected to stay at the Adams in the black section of town. Perfection arrived in Brooklyn at 3:45 pm on October 4, 1955, when the Dodgers took their first World Series championship. Larry King recalls the ecstasy among the fans. "Pandemonium broke out. I ran though the street; everybody else ran through. We didn't know what to do."

On January 28, 1958, Campanella skidded on a thin sheet of ice and crashed into a telephone pole. He was wedged beneath the dashboard in a fetal position for hours. "And when he attempted to reach for the key, he couldn't," says Carl Erskine. "That's when his life changed." Roy's son, his teammates, and his friends tell how the now paralyzed Campanella made the slow journey back to some kind of normalcy and became a catching coach for the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Campanella lived for another 34 years in his wheelchair. In his last interview, as his wife Roxie attaches the air hose that helps him breathe, Campanella asserts, "This is where you either accept it, or you die."

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