Tagged with: accessibility advocate awareness disability education family inclusion life spinal cord injury sport wheelchair
What is that sound that I hear? Oh yes, it is the sound of a bat cracking while it hits a ball. It is the popping of a ball into a glove and oh yes, the smell of free cut green grass. You know that I am talking about baseball.
On Thursday April 15, we celebrated the incredible life of #42 Jackie Robinson, who was the first man to break baseball’s color barrier. As we celebrate this day, let’s also not forget to remember a man who had to publicly face the barriers of being an athlete with a physical disability. I am talking about #39, Roy Campanella.
From 1948-1957, Roy Campanella was the man they called “Campy” who had a ten year career in which he hit 242 home runs. He was the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1951, 1953, and 1955. He was a catcher in five World Series. He was the first African American catcher in Major League Baseball history. In 1969, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Coopers Town, NY.
Now Campy’s Athletic accomplishments are well documented. What many of us don’t know is that Campy was in a car accident in 1958 that left him quadriplegic. This was the first time that the issues of people with disabilities became very public. Campy went through a life changing moment in New York City during a time when words like accessibility, adapted sports, and inclusion did not exist. Roy had to share his recovery and life with all the baseball world watching. He had to endure many barriers which included the struggles of rehabilitation, the collapse of his marriage, and the times he was carried into baseball stadiums as a symbol of inspiration. Yet, despite the pain, humiliation, and barriers, there are some groundbreaking accomplishments that we should never forget. After his playing career ended, Campy held a job in baseball as a coach and a Community Relations Assistant.
In January 1959, the Dodgers named him assistant supervisor of scouting and position coach at the team’s annual spring training camp, in which he served as a mentor and coach to young catchers. In 1978, he moved to Los Angeles and took a job as assistant to the Dodgers’ director of community relations. After his playing career, Campanella remained involved with the Dodgers, with coaching, with work, and most importantly with a life, which included a spouse and children.
Roy Capanella’s efforts have come and gone yet, what remains is a legacy to continue to seek the best in sport, in our communities and in our lives. Roy’s experiences are the result of a person with a disability having employment which benefitted his community, family and life. Not to mention being a pioneer to address race and disability issues.
This year in 2016, the Los Angeles Dodgers have hired their first African American manager in Dave Roberts. Although Jackie and Roy have been gone for many years, they are certainly not forgotten as their legacies are still entrenched and are very much an example of inclusion.
Today in our country the 56 million people with disabilities represent about 70% of unemployment in our country. Plus, there are many unresolved accessibility issues and inclusion barriers that are in every city and state. If we are truly advancing as a society then these barriers need to be addressed. As we remember an American hero in #42 Jackie Robinson, let’s also take time to reflect on the incredible journey of #39 Roy “Campy” Campanella.