- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 8, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416547045
- ISBN-13: 978-1416547044
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,619,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campanella Hardcover – March 8, 2011
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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
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Author Neil Lanctot does an excellent job of putting his career and contributions in perspective in this thoroughly researched and well-written book, which also shatters a number of myths, many of which Campy helped create.
Campanella joined the Bacharach Giants in the Negro Leagues in 1937 as a 15-year-old catcher for $25 a month. Campy refined his skills in the Negro Leagues under the tutelage of catching great Biz Mackey. He played for the Washington Elite Giants and the Baltimore Elite Giants and was named the MVP in the 1940 East-West All-Star Game at age 19. After his stint in the Mexican League in 1942, he said, "I knew I could make it in the majors."
The first third of the book covers Campy's career before he made his major league debut with the Dodgers on April 20, 1948.
The fact that Jackie Robinson was the first black in the majors instead of Campy seemed to be a source of resentment and conflict between the two. Campy had spent the 1946 season with Nashau and the 1947 season with Montreal, ignoring the Jim Crow rules, racial taunts and pressures on him without complaining or losing his cool. He showed he had the disposition, guts and talent to succeed in the majors.
Campy came into his own during the 1949 World Series when he earned the praises of his childhood heroes Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane. Dickey said, "Campanella is one of the smoothest receivers of his generation, has an excellent arm and is strong with the bat."
Lanctot chronicles the Dodgers' disappointing seasons in 1950 and 1951. Campy, who was injured and unable to play in the historic playoff game when New York Giants Bobby Thomson hit baseball's most famous homer, said, "It was the biggest disappointment of my career, not being able to play."
Lanctot spends a lot of time discussing the feud between Campy and Jackie Robinson, who went from being close friends to distant teammates. Campy and Robinson were very different. Campy loved baseball and had an aversion to controversy. He didn't see himself as a crusader. Robinson was aggressive, abrasive and opinionated.
Campanella was involved in a late-night car accident on Jan. 27, 1958, that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Lanctot covers the many versions of really happened that night. An idealized version of Campy, complete with myths, was presented in his autobiography "It's Good to Be Alive," which was published in 1959.
Campy lived for nearly 35 years in a wheelchair, dying in 1993. His post-baseball career, including his many struggles and an ugly divorce, are covered in the book's final 60 pages.
This is an excellent, well-balanced biography of one of baseball's greatest players.
Aside from Campy's life after the automobile accident that left him a quadriplegic for 35 years, there is little new here that has not been written elsewhere. True, the book reveals that on the night he crashed into a telephone pole, Campy had been with a woman not his wife, and also details the breakup of his friendship and longstanding feud with Jackie Robinson,which started over money issues on a winter barnstorming tour. But old newspaper stories and several other books sufficiently detail Roy Campanella's career, which frankly, is the reason to read this work.
Campanella was no saint, but a good, simple man who lived in amazing times and led a wonderful life. Unquestionably one of the greatest catchers ever, Campanella's career was shortened by, at first, racism, and then ultimately by a tragic car accident. His Brooklyn Dodger years provide the meat of the book, but there is much here to learn, even for fans who have, like myself, read all the Dodger books through the years.