"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
taken away from him.
The son of an Italian immigrant and an African-American mother, Campy's
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
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
who disliked Campanella's more philosophical approach to the prejudice they
encountered. "He'd get impatient with Campy," says Rachel Robinson,
he wanted him to speak up more. Campy would get impatient with Jack
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
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,
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."