Glen Cove, NY Catcher Roy Campanella Injured in Auto Accident, Jan 1958

Roy Campanella

Auto Crash May Doom Career of Campanella

Dodgers' Catcher Paralyzed

GLEN COVE, N.Y., Jan. 28 (AP)---Roy Campanella's brilliant career as one of baseball's greatest catchers appeared at an end today. A grinding automobile accident broke his neck and left him temporarily paralyzed.

A seven-man team of surgeons worked over the Negro star of the Los Angeles Dodgers for four hours and 20 minutes in an attempt to repair the damage to his husky frame and relieve paralysis from the chest down. The operation had been expected to take two hours.

Within Inch of Death

Afterward, Dr. Robert W. Segstaken, head of the surgical team, termed the operation a success and said the paralysis is expected to disappear. But it may be six weeks before Campanella is up and around.

Dr. Segstaken said the injury came within an inch of killing the player. He said that a key factor in Campanella's case was that the spinal cord had escaped injury and was "entirely normal." The broken vertebrae were pressing on the cord and part of the operation was to relieve that pressure.

Outlook Bleak

The doctors said the operation took somewhat longer because of Campanella's "thick muscular neck," but added that these extra-tough muscles saved him from injury that "might have been much worse."

Later in his recovery, Campanella will be required to wear a "four-poster brace" on his neck with a cup under the chin.

The doctor did not rule out the possibility that Campanella might play baseball again. But the future, nevertheless, was bleak for the heaviest-hitting catcher in the history of the sport.

Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA 29 Jan 1958


Roy Campanella

Roy Campanella (November 19, 1921 - June 26, 1993), nicknamed "Campy", was an American baseball player - primarily at the position of catcher - in the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Widely considered to have been one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game, Campanella played for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1940s and 1950s, as one of the pioneers in breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. His Hall of Fame career was cut short in 1958 when he was paralyzed in an automobile accident. . . .

Campanella lived in Long Island while owning a liquor store in Harlem, which he also operated during the baseball off-season. On January 28, 1958, after closing the store for the night, he began his drive home to Long Island. En route, his car hit a patch of ice, skidded into a telephone pole and overturned.

The accident left Campanella paralyzed from the chest down. Through physical therapy, he eventually was able to gain substantial use of his arms and hands. He was able to feed himself, shake hands, and gesture while speaking, but he would require a wheelchair for mobility for the remainder of his life.

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