For the Record
Life hasnít been kind to me lately. I won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas for 10 days; when I got there, I was told that nights werenít included, only days. I asked what should I do every night; I was told Iíd have to stay out of the Bahamas. And my doctor just took the stitches out; my dogís favorite bone is in my arm. Then I looked up my family tree and found out Iím the sap. To top that off, my fan club just broke up; he died. And now this.
This is what you all cheer for; me making a mistake. Well, you got it. On 8/29, I asked the trivia question, and on 9/5, I answered it. Then I got an e-mail from my pal in Thousand Oaks, California, Ted Toback, advising me that my once-flawless memory is flawed. John Smoltz isnít the only pitcher to win 20 games in a season, and record 20 saves in a season. It seems that Kirk Gibsonís favorite pitcher, Dennis Eckersley, did the same thing. Well, I wonít make another mistake-----not Ďtil next time.
Story of the Week
Baseballís all-time record crowd wasnít attracted by a red-hot playoff game or a World Series game. Instead, 93,103 fans filled the Los Angeles Coliseum on May 7, 1959 to honor Roy Campanella, whose baseball career had ended the previous year when the car he was driving skidded into a telephone poll, leaving him paralyzed.
A decade after that unique tribute (Iíll never understand why it took the brain surgeons in Cooperstown so long), Campanella received baseballís ultimate honor, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame after a brilliant career. Then again, Campy was named MVP of the National League three different years; 1951, 1953 and 1955. So his induction into the Hall was richly deserved.
An outstanding handler of pitchers, Campanella caught three no-hitters, led the National League in putouts six times, caught 100 or more games a year his last nine years in the majors, and threw out two of every three runners who tried to steal a base on him. And no catcher has ever been more adept at blocking the plate than Campanella. Although his career batting average was a respectable but not great .276 (he did not possess great speed), he popped 242 home runs during his 10-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and was one of the most feared hitters in baseball.
Campy joined the Negro League Baltimore Elite Giants directly out of high school in Philadelphia, and eventually made $3,000 a month, not at all shabby 60 years ago, as a full-fledged star of the league, being named to All-Star teams in 1941, 1944 and 1945. After that season, he became the second black to sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers (Iíll make the assumption here that you know who their first black player was). His salary took a major hit in the process to say the least; he earned $185 a month to play for Nashua of the New England League. By 1949, he was the Dodgersí regular catcher.
In 1951, he hit .325 with 33 homers and 108 RBIís, but pulled a leg muscle in the final regular season game, missing the last two games of the playoff. Monte Irvin, New York Giantsí outfielder, later said, "If Campanella hadnít injured himself in Philadelphia, that 1951 playoff series might well have turned out in Brooklynís favor." Irvin was absolutely right.
After a modest 1952 season, Campy hit 41 homers in 1953, batted .312, and drove in 142 runs. In 1955, he hit .318 with 32 homers and 107 RBIís. and was named to the All-Star team for the fourth time. He hit two home runs in the 1955 World Series against the Yankees, the only World Series the Brooklyn Dodgers ever won.
With all due respect to Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella is the greatest catcher Iíve ever seen.
Last Weekís Trivia
There was a year when four players in two major sports all wore #32, and all were MVPís of their respective leagues. What year and who were they? In 1963, Sandy Koufax (Baseball. National League.), Elston Howard (Baseball. American League.), Jim Brown (Football. NFL.) and Cookie Gilchrist (Football. AFL.)
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only NCAA Division I-A football player to lead the nation in rushing and scoring for a full season, and not be drafted by the pros? Youíve all heard of him. See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.