Roy Campanella Essay - Critical Context

Gene Schoor

Critical Context

Schoor’s biography is first and foremost a sports book, as Campanella was primarily an athlete, and a great one; his election to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 merely confirmed this fact. In addition, the Dodgers of the 1940’s and 1950’s were more than just a baseball club: It is rare in professional sports for a team and a city to merge, yet this is exactly what happened with the city of Brooklyn and their baseball club.

In this respect, Schoor’s book is more than merely the story of one player. The Dodgers of this era have affectionately been called the “boys of summer,” and though Campanella is obviously Schoor’s subject, the story also belongs to the team. It was an exciting period, 1946 to 1958, in which Campanella was part of the organization. The war was over, baseball became integrated, and with the exception of the New York Yankees, their perpetual nemesis in the other league, no team shone more brightly than the Dodgers. There were others on the Dodger team as gifted as he—Robinson, Hodges, Duke Snider—but no one’s fortunes were as linked with the team’s as Campanella’s.

Schoor published his biography in 1959, when Campanella’s tragic accident was a recent memory and his career had just ended; it was a perfect time to reflect on his accomplishments. Schoor depicts an era that no longer exists. For any youngster who has an interest in the sport, however, he describes baseball at its best—as an exciting, action-filled event that is best illustrated in the form of Campanella.