Roy Campanella, Dodger Hall of Famer

July 13th, 2015

The following story is excerpted from the autobiography It’s Good to be Alive by Roy Campanella. Campanella (Campy), who is considered one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game, played for the Brooklyn Dodgers until his playing career ended in 1958 when he was paralyzed by an automobile accident. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

“One reason I (Campy) was in shape was because I had spent ten days at Hot Springs taking the baths and doing lots of running. Larry Doby and Don Newcombe had gone with me. I also took along Ruthie and the two youngest kids. In the evening we’d go out to watch a basketball game at the local high school (Langston). I became interested in one of the players. He had the makings of a great basketball player. One particular night, I didn’t see him and I asked the coach about him. “Oh,” said the coach. “You mean Bobby Mitchell. The boy had to quit sports-he has to work after school to make ends meet in order to graduate.”

“I asked the coach to have Mitchell come to my hotel for a talk. He told me the boy worked as a bus boy in my hotel. I had a talk with him there and the upshot of it was that before I left Hot Springs I made arrangements with a doctor friend of mine to take care of his clothing, books, and other expenses and to give him a weekly allowance and to bill me.”

It’s Good to be Alive by Roy Campanella-Boston, Little Brown, and Company, 1959,177-178; reprinted Bison Book, University of Nebraska, 1995).

The young man in the story is none other than Pro Football Hall of Fame member Bobby Mitchell, the most famous athlete to ever come out of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Langston High School graduate starred in the National Football League with the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

The impact of baseball on the community of Hot Springs extended past the foul lines and impacted positively the life of a future star when the greatest catcher in the game extended his hand to help a young man of promise.