From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Considered by many to be one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, Roy "Campy" Campanella is as interesting for what he did off the field as for his accomplishments within the baselines. And Lanctot, who has written extensively on the Negro Leagues, does justice to the tale. Born in 1921 in Philadelphia to a Sicilian father and African-American mother, Campanella saw his love for baseball pay off at an early age when he joined a club in the Negro Leagues at age 15. His early baseball years, which also took him to Mexico and Cuba, not only gave him exposure to the ugly racism of the time but also the experience that he needed for the Brooklyn Dodgers to sign him in 1946. From there, Campanella won the MVP award three times and led the Dodgers to an emotional World Series win in 1945 after so many previous failures against the Yankees. Lanctot truly captures the reader by delving well past the statistics, analyzing the rocky relationship with teammate Jackie Robinson and the horrific car accident in 1958 that left him paralyzed. Lanctot paints Campanella as an extremely likable person, yet doesn't hold back when speaking about subjects like Campanella's failed marriages and infidelity. Impeccably researched, it's a defining book on "the only person in baseball history about whom absolutely no one had a bad thing to say." (Apr.)
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Dodger catching great Roy Campanella was born to an Italian American father and an African American mother in Philadelphia in 1921. The round, affable boy fell in love with baseball and was playing in the Negro Leagues at 15. Lanctot spins out Campy's story in exhaustive (occasionally exhausting) detail. Nearly every game he played is covered, and his tangled relationship with Jackie Robinson--friends, enemies, wary supporters--is treated with nuance. Campy's extraordinary abilities as a catcher are not only described but illustrated with anecdotes from specific games and seasons. Although Lanctot writes with a novelist's energy, sometimes the narrative veers into sentimentality, and he tends to soften such negatives as Campy's relations with his wives and neglect of some of his children. On the other hand, the man's courage in living fully a wheelchair-bound life after the car crash that ended his career makes a compelling tale (Campy's experience led to much-improved treatment for quadriplegics). Despite the extensive detail, Campy remains a bit elusive, beyond the captivating smile, the chirpy voice, and the great baseball instincts. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido