Role Model

June 29, 1993

Because of racism, his major league career didn't begin until he was 26. It ended prematurely 10 years later in a car crash. He spent the final 35 years of his life as a quadriplegic.

For most men, these setbacks might have produced bitterness. But in Roy Campanella, it produced a role model extraordinaire. He helped shatter baseball's racial barrier. He was the preeminent catcher of his day. And after tragedy struck, he became a spokesman for the handicapped.

On the ball field, he won Most Valuable Player three times; set a single-season record (for a catcher) of 41 home runs and 142 runs batted in, and proved to be the linchpin of the fabled Brooklyn Dodgers in their glory years.

His statistical brilliance put him in the Hall of Fame, but he deserved even better. Racial segregation -- including a stint with the Baltimore Elite Giants -- cost him more years in the majors.

Yet all this was preliminary to his triumph over physical handicaps. He refused to become an invalid. He coached in spring training. He handled community relations in Los Angeles.

Roy Campanella died this past Saturday, at 71. His inspirational approach to life, regardless of the setbacks, made him a Hall of TTC Famers' All Star.

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