Neyer: Carl Erskine on Roy Campanella’s defense

From SABR member Rob Neyer at on January 29, 2015:

While I’m well aware of Roy Campanella’s stellar reputation, I would not have expected him to rank No. 1 on a list like this.

So now we know what the numbers say, but I wondered what it was actually like to see Campanella in action. To find out, I asked Carl Erskine, who probably threw more pitches to Campy than anyone…

Rob, I guess I must have pitched a thousand innings to Roy.

Well, he had “savvy,” whatever that is: instinct, street smarts, feel … and yes, he could block pitches, never giving the runner a chance to advance. Of course he could throw, often picking runners off first base. After the pitch, the runner would often return to first base from his lead, and Campy would loop a soft, high toss to Hodges and WHAM.

We always went over the hitters together, and with an eight-team league we faced the seven other teams 22 times per season, 11 home and 11 away. So we faced the same hitters often — I faced Musial 164 times — which made it a mind game, and Campy was a master at calling the unexpected. Campy used to say to the young pitchers, “Now you just throw what I call and I’ll make you a winner.”

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Originally published: January 30, 2015. Last Updated: January 30, 2015.