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Roy Campanella Crash Leaves Him Paralyzed – January 28, 1958

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Before dawn, or the morning of January 28, 1958, Roy Campanella was driving home from the liquor store he owned in Harlem. Campanella (or Campy as was known) skidded off the road and hit a telephone poll. Campanella was a three-time National League MVP, and not surprisingly, the news of his accident was covered by every major newspaper in the U.S.

Most of the stories acknowledged that the great catcher had been seriously injured, but focused not so much on whether he would live or be permanently paralyzed, but rather on whether or not he could resume playing baseball. The Washington Post on the other was more blunt and more accurate than the others. Their headline read,”Campanella’s Career at End After Suffering Broken Neck in Crash.”

On January 31 a tracheotomy was performed on Campanella to relieve congestion that had formed in his lung. By the following day, his breathing had improved, but there was no change in his paralysis.

On February 20 the New York Times reported a “pessimistic bulletin” from the community hospital in Glen Cove, NY, where Campanella was being cared for. It said “No improvement in the muscle strength of the 36-year old catcher has been apparent since his neck was broken in an automobile accident on January 28. Moreover, the sensation that had returned to the left side as low as the knee, has now receded to the groin.

In January 1958, just before he was due to report for spring training, Campanella was permanently disabled in a traffic accident. He had successfully invested in a liquor store in central Harlem, Roy Campanella Choice Wines and Liquors, earlier in his career and worked there in the offseason…The Chevy station wagon Campy normally drove was in the shop for repairs, and he was driving a much lighter rental car when he lost control of the vehicle on an icy street. He hit a telephone pole and the car flipped over, pinning him under the steering wheel. Roy’s neck was broken and his spinal cord was severely damaged, paralyzing him from the chest down. Read more

“To play this game good, a lot of you has to be a little boy.” – Roy Campanella

It was a career started late due to the color of his skin, and ended early after a tragic auto accident.

In between, Roy Campanella blazed across the baseball landscape with 10 years of catching perfection. Read more

Here’s an ethnic baseball trivia question: Name the eight Italian Americans who have hit 40 or more home runs in a major league season? A couple of names come readily to mind; Joe DiMaggio and Rocky Colavito from the distant past, and more recently Mike Piazza and Jason Giambi. Rounding out the list are Jim Gentile, Rico Petrocelli, Ken Caminitti and perhaps the trick part of the question Roy Campanella. Read more



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