Goldman: What Al Campanis revealed 29 years ago, and how it still affects us

From SABR member Steven Goldman at VICE Sports on April 7, 2016:

The important thing to remember is that no one who knew Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis thought he was a racist before he went on TV and revealed himself to be one, 29 years ago this week. And Campanis wasn’t a racist—not in the rabid stars ‘n’ bars-waving, sheet-wearing sense of the word. He probably didn’t even know he was, until he found out along with everyone else.

Campanis was a man of the world—a multilingual NYU graduate, a World War II veteran, an executive who oversaw four pennant-winners, and, to invoke an unfortunate cliché, some of his best friends, including Jackie Robinson, were black people. And yet, as Campanis revealed when he appeared on “Nightline” this week in 1987, he was also inescapably, ineluctably racist.

The program was observing the 40th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color line, and Campanis was both the inheritor of Branch Rickey’s position with the Dodgers and Robinson’s teammate on the 1946 Montreal Royals. It all went wrong when host Ted Koppel turned the discussion from baseball’s past to its present.

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Originally published: April 7, 2016. Last Updated: April 7, 2016.