Authors: William C. Kashatus
Tags: #Sports and Recreation
“A fantastic and thought-provoking analysis of how two men championed the fight for racial harmony in segregated America via different rules of engagement. A must-read for any serious student of baseball and American history.”
—Larry Lester, historian for the Negro League Baseball Hall of Fame
“Bill Kashatus has given us a very human account of Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.”
—Monte Irvin, New York Giants Hall of Famer
“Kashatus sheds new and important insight on the Robinson-Campanella relationship by placing it in the larger framework of African American history.”
—Larry Hogan, author of
Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball
Jackie & Campy
Jackie & Campy
The Untold Story of Their Rocky Relationship and the Breaking of Baseball’s Color Line
William C. Kashatus
University of Nebraska Press
Lincoln and London
© 2014 by William C. Kashatus.
Portions of chapters 3, 4, and 5 previously appeared in William C. Kashatus,
September Swoon: Richie Allen, the 1964 Phillies and Racial Integration
(University Park: Penn State Press, 2004). Used with permission.
Cover image: Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson at Chicago's Wrigley Field, 1948, courtesy of the Brearley Collection, Boston
Author photo courtesy of William C. Kashatus.
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kashatus, William C.
Jackie and Campy: the untold story of their rocky relationship and the breaking of baseball’s color line / William C. Kashatus.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
978-0-8032-4633-1 (cloth: alk. paper)—
1. Robinson, Jackie, 1919–1972. 2. African American baseball players—Biography. 3. Campanella, Roy, 1921–1993. 4. Baseball players—United States—Biography. 5. Male friendship—United States. 6. Racism in sports—United States. 7. Discrimination in sports—United States. I. Title.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
For Michael Zuckerman and to the memory of Peter Cline, gifted educators who recognized and cultivated my love of history
This book is dedicated to two educators who had a profound impact on my life. The late Peter Cline, a professor of history at Earlham College, was my undergraduate advisor and a dear friend. He read widely, thought deeply, and communicated his knowledge with gentle good humor and in a manner that was engaging and respectful of the young minds he taught. Peter encouraged me to pursue graduate school in history and secured a Mellon Fellowship for me after I left Earlham. But his greatest gift was cultivating in me a sense of intellectual self-esteem.
Michael Zuckerman, emeritus professor at the University of Pennsylvania, encouraged me to pursue a doctorate in history and served on my dissertation board. Though he would not allow me to settle for anything less than my best work, he did so in a manner that was respectful of me and the intellectual process itself. Mike also took a genuine interest in my dual career as a secondary school teacher and National Park Service Ranger by visiting my “classroom”—sometimes with his own students—and sharing ideas on pedagogy and curriculum. He continues to be a valued friend.
Both of these educators served as important role models because of their special ability to communicate with young adults from many different backgrounds. They understood that good teaching engages the student in life itself, challenging him to question the moral conventions and stereotypes of our society. In the process they showed me that teaching can be a challenging and personally rewarding profession because it demands intellectual rigor and high standards as well as compassion and faith in young people. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Special thanks are also due to all of the individuals who agreed to be interviewed for this book: Hank Aaron, Rich Ashburn, Gene Benson,
Ralph Caballero, Bill Cash, Mahlon Duckett, Carl Erskine, Stanley Glenn, Wilmer Harris, Gene Hermanski, Monte Irvin, Clyde King, James McGowan, Johnny Podres, Ken Raffensberger, Branch Rickey III, Robin Roberts, Ed Roebuck, Howie Schultz, Andy Seminick, Harry Walker, Marvin Williams, and Don Zimmer. The personal insight and candor of Carl Erskine and Monte Irvin are especially appreciated. They are among the few close friends of Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson who are still with us and were willing to participate in this enterprise. I regret that the Robinson and Campanella families failed to return my phone calls and e-mails. Their insights would have contributed significantly to the substance and scope of the book.
The editorial staff at University of Nebraska Press was invaluable to improving the book, especially Rob Taylor and Courtney Ochsner. I am also grateful to Michael McGandy, Larry Hogan, and Larry Lester, all of whom provided helpful editorial advice and encouragement. John Horne at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library and Carolyn McGoldrick of the Associated Press were extremely helpful in locating photographs and securing permission to reproduce them in this book.
Finally, I am grateful to my wife, Jackie, and our three sons, Tim, Peter, and Ben, who continue to tolerate my twin passions for writing and baseball and still offer their unconditional support and love.
Jackie & Campy
In 1956 Martin Luther King Jr., a young African American Baptist minister, achieved overnight fame when he led a black boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus system. King’s introduction of “massive resistance” as a legitimate form of racial protest inspired a Supreme Court decision declaring segregation in public transportation to be illegal and forced the City of Montgomery to abandon its discriminatory seating policies. It also marked the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.
For the next twelve years King led various forms of nonviolent protest against racial discrimination. Though his life was threatened repeatedly and he was arrested many times for violating state segregation laws, he never wavered in his quest to win civil rights through nonviolent tactics and with the cooperation of like-minded whites. His efforts were admired worldwide and inspired the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has been referred to as a Magna Charta for African Americans.
King once confided to his closest aide, Wyatt Tee Walker, that Jackie Robinson’s example in breaking baseball’s color barrier inspired him to pursue racial integration on a national stage. “Jackie made it possible for me in the first place,” he said. “Without him, I would never have been able to do what I did.”
Surprised by the revelation, Walker asked him to explain. “Back in the days when integration wasn’t fashionable,” King said, “Jackie understood the trauma and the humiliation and the loneliness which comes with being a pilgrim walking in the lonesome byways toward the high road of freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins and a freedom rider before freedom rides.”
When Roy Campanella, the first black catcher to break the color barrier and a teammate of Robinson’s, learned of the remark, he was quick to
point out that Jackie wasn’t the only one who should be credited with the success. “Without the Brooklyn Dodgers you don’t have
Brown v. Board of Education
,” he insisted, referring to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision that declared racial segregation illegal in the United States. “We were the first ones on the trains. We were the first ones down South not to go around the back of the restaurants, the first ones in the hotels. We were the teachers of the whole integration thing.”
Campanella’s defensiveness came from his belief that he, along with other African American teammates Don Newcombe, Joe Black, and Jim Gilliam, should also be credited with abolishing Jim Crow in American society. All of them endured racial abuse in the Negro Leagues longer than the single season Robinson apprenticed with the Kansas City Monarchs.
Unlike Robinson, who actively challenged Jim Crow, Campanella was more subdued in his protest because he knew white society wouldn’t listen. Instead he played the game at an extraordinary level, believing that he could play just as well as if not better than any white Major Leaguer and that he could crack baseball’s color line if an owner had the moral courage to give him the chance. Once given the opportunity, Campanella refused to jeopardize his Major League career by challenging directly the subtle forms of discrimination he faced or the state political and judicial systems that permitted it. He let his remarkable talent as a power hitter and catcher do the talking for him, believing that “ability,” not “militancy,” was the foundation upon which racial equality rested.
Jackie Robinson thought differently. He possessed a fierce pride, an unrelenting competitiveness, and a keen racial consciousness that had been cultivated on the streets and playing fields of Pasadena, California, a city that was hostile to blacks. Throughout his life Robinson fought against Jim Crow, beginning at age eight, when a white neighbor called him a “nigger,” and continuing during his years as a stellar student-athlete at Pasadena Junior College and
and, later, as a military officer and Negro Leaguer.
Although he did not provoke the racial discrimination he experienced, Robinson certainly didn’t back down when he was made a victim of it. His defiance sometimes resulted in trouble with the law and a military court-martial.
Robinson’s greatest challenge came in the mid-to-late 1940s, when he became the first African American to break Major League Baseball’s whites-only policy. Starring for the Brooklyn Dodgers,
he endured repeated death threats, racial slurs, and humiliating treatment from opposing players and fans. It was against his nature to suffer those indignities silently. But Robinson had promised Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey that he would not strike back for fear of setting the course of integration back a decade or more. The constant pressure and abuse he suffered resulted in pent-up anger. While he channeled the rage and hurt into a singular intensity that propelled him to greater feats on the playing field, those painful feelings also led to sleepless nights, graying hair, chronic stomach trouble, and perhaps a premature death at fifty-three in 1972.
To be sure, Robinson and Campanella possessed different personalities that often clashed during their years with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Where Robinson was overtly aggressive and intense, Campanella was more passive and easygoing. Jackie’s race consciousness and relentless drive were admired by teammates and eventually opponents, but those qualities certainly did not endear him to the white baseball establishment. Conversely, Campy’s indefatigable enthusiasm and boyish charm made him one of the game’s most popular players. The personality differences are best captured in the title and tone of each man’s autobiography. In
I Never Had It Made
, Robinson reveals the sadness, pain, and bitterness he experienced as a black man in a white man’s world, while Campanella, who spent the remainder of his life in a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a 1958 car accident, celebrates the enjoyable, sometimes amusing experiences of his baseball career in
It’s Good to Be Alive
But personality issues were only part of the conflict between the two men. Some of the tension came from mutual jealousy. Both players were extraordinarily talented and would eventually be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Robinson won Rookie of the Year in 1947 as a first baseman when he hit .297 and led the National League in stolen bases with 29. Two years later, as a second baseman, he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, leading the circuit in hitting with a .342 average and steals with 37, while knocking in 124 runs. With Robinson as the catalyst, the Dodgers won six pennants and a world championship during his ten seasons in Brooklyn.
Campanella, a catcher, was also a mainstay of the Dodgers’ pennant winners of 1949, ’52, ’53, ’55, and ’56. The seven-time All-Star was voted the National League’s
in 1951, ’53, and ’55. In 1953,
his best season, Campy batted .312 and scored 103 runs, while his 142
s and 41 homers set Major League records for catchers.
Like other hugely successful teammates, Robinson and Campanella competed with each other for the spotlight. But they also treated the other’s playing achievements with a silent resentment that rarely if ever revealed itself in public. The jealousy went further than the playing field too.
According to Sam Lacey, a sportswriter for the
, “Campanella resented Jackie, who was a symbol for blacks because of his dark complexion.” African American sportswriters and fans would “always circle around Jackie like he was theirs.” Campy, the son of an Italian father and an African American mother, was “a hybrid, marginalized by blacks because of his [Italian] name and swarthy complexion.”
Not even the three Most Valuable Player Awards the Dodgers’ catcher captured could match Robinson’s singular status among blacks as the trailblazer for integration. At the same time, Robinson resented Campanella’s popularity among white sportswriters and fans and considered him an “Uncle Tom” because he was an agreeable black man in a white world.
Campanella’s refusal to actively challenge Jim Crow irked Robinson, who near the end of his career admitted, “The more [I see] of Camp, the less I like him.”
Not surprisingly the teammates became estranged in the mid-1950s, just when the Dodgers were experiencing their greatest success on the diamond.
It would be a mistake, however, to reduce the Robinson-Campanella rivalry to personality differences or petty jealousies. There was something much deeper to their feud, which one writer described as “combining the bitterness of the Hatfields and McCoys with the tragic comedy of Amos ’n’ Andy.”
That bitterness was caused by the inability of each man to understand and respect the approach of the other toward civil rights, and the tragedy was that both men shared the same goal: to secure equal opportunity for all African Americans. It was a conflict instigated by a fundamental dialectic in African American history itself, one that embodies a constant but inevitable tension between active defiance and passive resistance, aggression and docility, direct action and self-reliance. That dialectic emerged within the civil rights movement at the turn of the twentieth century and can be traced to the differing philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois.
Booker T. Washington, a former slave, became the founder of the Tuskegee Institute for industrial and vocational training. Considered by most whites to be the spokesman of the African American race at the turn of the nineteenth century, Washington’s accom- modationist philosophy was rejected by the majority of blacks during the post–World War II era. (Library of Congress)
Washington, a former slave, was recognized by most whites and blacks as “spokesman of his race” between 1895 and 1905. He believed that African Americans would progress only by winning support from the “better sort” of whites and by working hard, living frugal and moral lives, and developing and supporting black enterprises. For Washington, “employment” and “economic self-sufficiency” were the twin pillars upon which the foundation of racial equality rested.
It was a practical philosophy
given the realities of race relations in the early twentieth century since it acknowledged segregation without accepting the inferior status it imposed on African Americans. “In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the five fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress,” Washington said, giving comfort to white audiences. At the same time, he urged blacks to “make friends with the people of all races by entering the mechanics, commerce, domestic service and the professions.”
Washington encouraged blacks to develop useful economic skills instead of protesting racial discrimination, and he founded the Tuskegee Institute to promote industrial and vocational education.
Although he worked behind the scenes against segregation, disenfranchisement, and lynching, Washington convinced white society that blacks would accept social segregation and disenfranchisement in exchange for educational and economic opportunities.
Whites hailed this “compromise” as the solution to the “race problem.” Northern industrialist philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller contributed millions of dollars to Tuskegee and other southern black schools. President Theodore Roosevelt, impressed by Washington’s effort to blend practical education and political conciliation with whites, welcomed his counsel. But as Washington’s influence grew, so did opposition to his accommodationist philosophy. Chief among his rivals was William Edward Burghardt Du Bois.
Du Bois, the first black to receive a PhD at Harvard, promoted integration of the races and full citizenship for blacks. Rejecting Washington’s conciliatory stance toward white society as “silent submission to racial inequality,” Du Bois accused him of “preaching a gospel of work and money” that “overshadows higher aims” for black people.
“If we make money the object of training we shall develop money-makers, but not necessarily men,” he argued. “If we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans, but not men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of our schools.” For Du Bois, the “object” of black education had to be “intelligence, broad sympathy, and knowledge of the world.”
These are the same qualities that are necessary for full citizenship, and it is not coincidental that Du Bois equated them with “manhood.” Unless blacks actively pursued and embraced these virtues, they would never be accorded the respect that comes with
racial equality. Accordingly Du Bois believed that blacks were emasculated by Washington’s accommodationist policies and, in 1905, organized the Niagara movement to demand an end to racial discrimination in education, public accommodations, voting, and employment. As a result, the African American community was split into two antagonistic camps: the “Bookerites” and the “Niagarites.” Both groups maintained surveillance on the other and resorted to publishing essays critical of the other. While Washington’s opposition resulted in the demise of the Niagara movement in 1909, Du Bois helped to establish its successor, the National Association of Colored People (
), and became editor of its monthly journal, the