Card: 1990 Target Dodgers 100 Anniversary #105
Eight words: “They may not have some of the necessities.” Those words made Dodgers general manager Al Campanis a pariah. He tried to explain that he had not said what he meant or meant what he said, but his reputation was wrecked. His self-destruction focused a spotlight on Major League Baseball’s shameful record in hiring minority managers and executives.
The man who was reviled as a racist had played alongside Jackie Robinson and signed Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente. Their portraits hung on his office wall — an African American, a Jew, and a Puerto Rican.
"He did more for black players, more for Latin players, than anybody," Tommy Lasorda would later tell the press.
"In all the years I've known him, I've never heard him say one racist thing, ever." added Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully, "He didn't have a racist bone in his body."
Of Campanis, Jackie Robinson once said "Al Campanis was a good guy. He was very good on integration when it counted.” Robinson died in 1972, so he was not around to defend Al when it counted. However,
Many other figures in baseball, such as African-American and Latin players who played for the Dodgers, have also spoken in Campanis' defense.
Before his muddled insults of African Americans on ABC’s Nightline in 1987, Campanis was one of baseball’s great teachers and scouts. He wrote the book on how to teach the game. The Dodgers’ Way to Play Baseball, published in 1954, was translated into at least four languages and became a standard text for youth coaches. His teaching bible was borrowed from his revered mentor, Branch Rickey. He devised a grading system for scouts, a 60-to-80 scale to turn their opinions of young players into hard numbers. Later converted to a 20-to-80 scale, it became an industry standard.
Alexander Sebastian Campanis came from a fractured Greek-Italian family. He was born Alessandro Campani on November 2, 1916, on Kos, one of the Greek Dodecanese (Twelve) Islands in the Aegean Sea. His mother, Aphrodite Hazzis, was an island girl who fell in love with an Italian army captain, Giuseppe Campani. When she brought their son to Italy, the wealthy, aristocratic Campani family rejected her because she was a foreigner. According to one source, the family had her committed to an asylum for the insane, but she escaped and took 5-year-old Alessandro to the United States in 1922. He was raised in New York City and graduated from NYU. Campanis is the Greek version of his surname.
Al was drafted into the Navy in October 1943. He spent the next two years playing ball and conducting physical training for sailors at stateside bases. He was naturalized as a US citizen in 1944.
After returning from the war, Al rejoined the Montreal Royals. With Montreal in 1946, Campanis played 116 games at shortstop and was teammates with Jackie Robinson, who played 119 games at second base. He remained with Montreal in 1947, while Robinson played for the Dodgers, breaking the baseball color line.
Campanis soon afterward became a scout for the Dodgers, then eventually their scouting director. While a scout, he notably discovered future Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Sandy Koufax. Campanis moved with the team to Los Angeles when they became the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958.
In 1968, Al became the Dodgers' general manager. In one of his first trades as general manager, Campanis traded his own son Jim, to the Kansas City Royals for two minor leaguers. Scouting was particularly strong under Campanis, including the Dodgers’ 1968 draft, which was the most bountiful in history: Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Geoff Zahn, Bobby Valentine, Bill Buckner, Tom Paciorek, Joe Ferguson, and Doyle Alexander. Under his leadership, the Dodgers reached the World Series four times: 1974, 1977, 1978, and 1981.
Al Campanis is part of the New York City Born Player Tour (Raised in NYC actually) – Go to the Next Stop
Al is also part of the Military Service during Wartime Tour – go to the Next Stop
Al is also part of the LA/Brooklyn Dodgers Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop
See all Al’s baseball cards at TCDB
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