Cieradkowski: Roy Campanella: Race, opportunity and the 1942 pennant

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski at Studio Gary C on January 30, 2020:

Three decades ago, when I was an art student in Baltimore, I had become interested in the city’s Negro League team, the Elite Giants. I had the good fortune to meet many former Elite Giants players as well as the fans who rooted for them. The Elites (pronounced EE-lights) became my favorite Negro League team, and I eagerly dug into their history, spending hours pouring over the back issues of the Baltimore Afro-American. This was before computers made baseball research infinitely easier and research entailed camping out in library microfilm rooms or manhandling the large bound volumes of the actual newspapers. I loved this quest for knowledge, and discovering new facts and statistics pertaining to Negro League history made me feel like a lower-case indiana jones. Fortunately, for my purposes, the Afro-American was based in Baltimore and devoted extensive coverage to their hometown Elites after they moved to the city in 1938. Through this hands-on research I was able to read along as the seasons played themselves out before my eyes.

The Elite Giants were not as “sexy” a team as the Homestead Grays or Kansas City Monarchs, and not much had been written about them other than it was the team that gave Roy Campanella his start. Diving into the 1938 box scores I found the very first mention of the 16 year-old Campanella playing in an official Negro League game, although his name was misspelled as “Campanello” – it actually took the beat writers from the Afro-American a year or two to finally get the kid catcher’s name right in the box scores and post-game summaries.

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Originally published: January 30, 2020. Last Updated: January 30, 2020.