vrijdag 17 mei 2013

Campy: the Two Lives of Roy Campanella: Review

Behind Jackie Robinson an army of black players was waiting on their chance to play in the Major League. Some of them already played in the farm systems of the big teams. One of them was Roy Campanella, the future MVP catcher of the Brooklyn Dodgers. 'Campy, the two lives of Roy Campanella' by Neil Lanctot tells the story of Roy from his childhood days in Philadelphia, always looking for a game of street baseball. His teenage years when he started to play in organized games. His rise through the ranks in the Negro League. The years behind the plate for the Dodgers and the tragic car accident which ended his active baseball playing career. Neil Lanctot has made this a very easy to read, enjoyable book that makes you love that somewhat overweight catcher. Every year you hope the Dodgers will win that World Series title, although you know it was only in 1955 when they finally did. My hat off to Lanctot for keeping the suspense and making this a gripping read. One of the most interesting things is the difference between Jackie Robinson and Campy. Jackie, who went to UCLA, was the guy who broke through the color barrier first and always stayed serious about equal rights. Campy, who grew up poor and did not go to college and quit school to follow his heart and play baseball, always thought himself lucky to be playing in the majors. This eventually leads to a falling out between the two. Because this ia not an autobiography the writer can take some distance from his subject. At times Lanctot is critical about Campanella. For instane how he had a knack for changing his stories or beef them up to make them more interesting. Never with bad intentions, though. Campy wanted to entertain! The part about Campy's revalidation is much shorter. But it's interesting to read how the always smiling Campanella also had his lesser moments, but he always tried to keep them to himself. He became a speaker for the handicapped and even, at long last, a voice for civil rights, this to the delight of Jackie Robinson. Still, most of the 428 pages are about the happy, smiling, catching Campy. He once said: "You have to be a man to be a big league ballplayer, but you have to have a lot of little boy in you too'. That is Campanella spot on. He is and will always be one of my favorite Dodgers.

dinsdag 7 mei 2013

It's Good to be Alive: Review

Browsing for stuff about my favorite ballclub I recently stumbled on ‘It’s Good to be Alive’. I never got the change to read Roy Campanella’s autobiography but when I looked closer, the picture wasn’t of a book cover. It had Lou Gosset Jr. in it. My curiousity was triggered and had to see it. It’s a made for TV movie and the directorial debut of Michael Landon (yes, the guy from Little House on the Prairie). It stars Paul Winfield and, obviously, Louis Gossett Jr. I don’t spoil anything when I say the biggest chunck of the movie is about Campy’s struggle after his car accident in 1958 which left him a quadriplegic. There is some footage of Campy playing at Ebbets Field though. Since Campanella had been playing baseball since he was a kid, starting in Negro league Baseball when he was only 15 it was hard not to be able to move anymore. It's a seventies movie so it's a bit slow at times, but in this case it fits the story. Paul Winfield’s performance is good, he makes you (the viewer) live the pain along with him. Since the movie retells Campanella's autobiography it's a very personal movie. Campy shows us how he quits life, which is no wonder when all you want to do is catch and throw baseballs. Gosset as Roy's attendant is stern and once in a while funny. The end of the movie shows us the real Campanella and his family for a minute. That moment send shivers down my spine. As a Dodger fan you should see this. It's on dvd, so pick it up sometime.

donderdag 2 mei 2013


Although Jackie Robinson was a big star with the Dodgers long, long before I was born, I still have the feeling I've 'known' him. Thanks to April 15th and the numerous books written about him and his rise to the Major League. Without him another black player would have scaled the wall of segregation in sports. But it was him who did it first, not someone else and although he was black he's been blue his entire carrire. He even ended his active playing days when he was traded to the hated New York Giants. There are many statues of Jackie all around the USA. At UCLA Jackie Robinson Stadium for instance or the one in Jersey City. I've seen two of his statues myslf. I really like the one at the Cyclone Stadium at Coney Island. He looks like a guy without a care in the world and is flanked by another Dodger great: Pee Wee Reese.
I have mixed feelings about the statue in Pasadena, the city where he spend a big chunck of his life. It's just his head. It would make me sad if he wasn't accompanyed by his brother Mack, who won silver (200 meters) at the 1936 Olympic Games.

I turned 42 in december, for more than eleven months I will be 'Jackie's number'. It was great to see the huge '42' in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field.

So for me it was extra special when I heard about the movie 42 coming to movie theaters. My girlfriend and I had planned a trip to New York City and I just had to see the movie there. It was great. A historical document about a big step in baseball and Dodger fans. It gave me a very nice idea of how Ebbets Field must have felt like in its hay days. Nowadays it's a sad place. The appartment blocks that occupy former Ebbets Field are humongous and ugly. There is a reminder, though, of the spot where 'Dem Bums' played so many great games. It's a simple plaque, but I can recommend every Dodger fan to take a pilgrimage walk through Prospect Park and along Empire Avenue to Bedford Avenue 1705 and just stand there for a bit. Thinking of Robinson, Campanella, Reese, Erskine, Branca, Snider and many more.