Given the number of historically great talents that have played for the Dodgers during the franchise’s time in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the debate as to who the greatest or most influential Dodger is largely goes unsettled.
One name that tends to fly under the radar is Roy Campanella, who starred behind the plate for 10 seasons as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier when he joined the Dodgers in 1947 and Campanella became the first black catcher in MLB the following season.
Campanella was born in Philadelphia, Pa., and he began playing professional baseball at the age of 15. Prior to signing with the Dodgers, he made a name for himself with the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro National League.
In his first full season with the Dodgers (1949), Campanella hit .287 with 22 home runs and 82 RBIs. He also threw out 59 percent of would-be base stealers en route to earning All-Star honors. While Campanella was strong for the Dodgers through his first three seasons with the team, he broke out in 1951.
That year, Campanella hit .325 with 33 home runs and 108 RBIs and was named the MVP on Nov. 1, 1951. The award was the first of three MVPs he would win in his career. Campanella threw out 69 percent of base runners in 1951, which was a career-high mark.
Campanella won his third MVP award in 1955, then struggled through two down seasons. Months prior to the Dodgers beginning their inaugural season in Los Angeles, Campanella was in a tragic accident in January of 1958 that largely left him without motion below his shoulders.
With his career sadly cut short due to the accident, Campanella was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969. The Roy Campanella Award was also established by the Dodgers to annually recognize a Dodger player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher.
Clayton Kershaw won his second consecutive Roy Campanella Award in 2014, becoming the first Dodger do so.