"Campy, a rich and thoroughly enjoyable book, may well alter [reader's] attitudes about a man who might be the most overlooked star in Dodgers history."
—Russ Stanton, Los Angeles Times
“As a black American and a quadriplegic, Roy Campanella faced double-barreled discrimination with courage and determination. Neil Lanctot's authoritative, even-handed Campy strips away the myths and captures the joys and struggles of a superb ball player who was a true pioneer both on and off the field."
—James S. Hirsch, author of Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend
“Neil Lanctot has written a powerful, richly detailed account of one of the most fascinating sports figures America has ever produced. He captures every detail and every nuance of this beloved man and brilliant athlete. Campanella is unforgettable. So is this book.”
—Jonathan Eig, author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season
"A thorough portrait, rich in detail, shimmering with warmth."
—Stan Hochman, The Philadelphia Daily News
"Hall-of-Famer Roy 'Campy' Campanella's life story has never received the comprehensive treatment that it deserves — until now. Neil Lanctot's assiduous research and crisp style produce a compelling biography on one of baseball's most captivating and irrepressible personalities. Grade: Home run."
—Mark Hodermarsky, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Campy is a fine behind-the-scenes recounting of baseball personalities and Campanella's limited but courageous life in a wheelchair."
—Dick Kreck, The Denver Post
"With the publication of Neil Lanctot’s superb biography, Campy, Roy Campanella is no longer the greatest player about whom there is no definitive biography."
—Allen Barra, The Newark Star-Ledger
"Lanctot is meticulous in putting together the first truly comprehensive biography of a baseball great."
—Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Fans of the sport and that era will certainly find plenty to chew on in this solid biography."
—Budd Bailey, The Buffalo News
"Lancot writes fluidly about dignity and pettiness, warmth and controversy, and triumph and despair. It’s a deeper, richer portrait that is stunning in its detail. It’s a compelling read.”
—Bob D'Angelo, Tampa Bay Tribune
Considered by many to be one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, Roy "Campy" Campanella is as interesting for what he did off the field as for his accomplishments within the baselines. And Lanctot, who has written extensively on the Negro Leagues, does justice to the tale. Born in 1921 in Philadelphia to a Sicilian father and African-American mother, Campanella saw his love for baseball pay off at an early age when he joined a club in the Negro Leagues at age 15. His early baseball years, which also took him to Mexico and Cuba, not only gave him exposure to the ugly racism of the time but also the experience that he needed for the Brooklyn Dodgers to sign him in 1946. From there, Campanella won the MVP award three times and led the Dodgers to an emotional World Series win in 1945 after so many previous failures against the Yankees. Lanctot truly captures the reader by delving well past the statistics, analyzing the rocky relationship with teammate Jackie Robinson and the horrific car accident in 1958 that left him paralyzed. Lanctot paints Campanella as an extremely likable person, yet doesn't hold back when speaking about subjects like Campanella's failed marriages and infidelity. Impeccably researched, it's a defining book on "the only person in baseball history about whom absolutely no one had a bad thing to say." (Apr.)
The first clue that this is not the usual account of a baseball great is the cover photo depicting a forlorn if not troubled soul. Indeed, as the subtitle makes plain, there were two Roy Campanellas: the public one, best known for his multiple MVP career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, after years in segregated baseball, whose life was marked by a courageous battle after a paralyzing 1958 car accident, and the private one who confronted teammate Jackie Robinson and lived a long life after the car crash, an event that Lanctot (Negro League Baseball) describes from a fresh perspective. Richly documented and meticulously compiled, this definitive biography bares the soul of a boy of summer who symbolizes a distant period but who lived through an epochal transformation of the game and the country. Compelling reading for all baseball and biography fans.—G.R.
The author ofNegro League Baseball(2004) returns with a thorough, generous biography of a Negro League star, catcher Roy "Campy" Campanella (1921–1993), who joined the Dodgers shortly after Jackie Robinson.
For many pages, Lanctot offers few negative words about Campanella. The son of a blue-collar white man and an African-American woman, he grew up when Jim Crow still reigned in the South and conditions in the North were only marginally better. As a child, he quickly fell in love with baseball, a sport his athletic gifts fitted perfectly. He had feline reactions and could run, throw, hit for power and average and handle pitchers well. But as the author ably illustrates, stardom came after long tuition. Although his gifts were so prodigious that he was playing professionally at age 15, he worked ferociously hard and played whenever and wherever he could. On the road in the Negro League (and even later), he suffered enormous indignities—denied service in restaurants, hotels and other businesses—but somehow retained an ebullience that Lanctot highlights throughout. His teammates, black and white, liked and admired him—though the author focuses on Campy's deteriorating relationship with Jackie Robinson, a tension Lanctot attributes to differences in education (Robinson attended college) and in impatience with the pace of the civil-rights movement (Campy took a long time to become more assertive politically). Competition was also a major factor, since both men enjoyed celebrity and adulation. Lanctot, pricking any balloons of legend floating over Campy, continually mentions cases of inconsistency between the legends and the historical record. Painful reading, indeed, are the many pages Lanctot devotes to Campy's car accident (it left him a quadriplegic) and the arduous, stressful, depressing aftermath.
A bit tendentious early on, but a sharper critical lens makes the final sections memorable and wrenching.