Nicknamed “Campy,” Roy Campanella (1921-1993) was the first black catcher in the history of Major League Baseball. Known for his years with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the famous “Boys of Summer,” Campanella is remembered as a talented all-around player. He hit 242 home runs during his 10-year Major League career, he was a catcher in five World Series, and he was named Most Valuable Player three times.
Born in Philadelphia, Campanella began his career by playing ball with a semiprofessional Negro League team, the Bacharach Giants, during his teens. He played for the Baltimore Elite Giants from 1937 to 1945 and was considered one of the best catchers in the Negro Leagues. He also played in briefly in the Mexican League.
Campanella began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. During his 1953 MVP season, he hit 41 home runs, chalked up 142 RBIs, scored 103 runs, and batted .312, considered one of the best seasons ever recorded by a catcher. With Campanella, the “Boys of Summer” won five National League pennants between 1949 and 1956 and won the World Series in 1955.
In 1958, Campanella was paralyzed in a car accident, but for decades he worked behind the scenes and in community relations for the Dodgers in Los Angeles. In 1969 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1991, two years before he died, Campanella and his wife founded The Roy and Roxie Campanella Physical Therapy Scholarship Foundation, which provides support for those living with paraplegia and funds scholarships for students who pursue degrees in physical therapy.