Excerpts from ABC’s “Nightline” with anchor Ted Koppel and Al Campanis, broadcast Monday night, April 6, 1987:
KOPPEL: Mr. Campanis . . . You’re an old friend of Jackie Robinson’s, but it’s a tough question for you. You’re still in baseball. Why is it that there are no black managers, no black general managers, no black owners?
CAMPANIS: Well, Mr. Koppel, there have been some black managers, but I really can’t answer that question directly. The only thing I can say is that you have to pay your dues when you become a manager. Generally, you have to go to the minor leagues. There’s not very much pay involved, and some of the better known black players have been able to get into other fields and make a pretty good living in that way.
KOPPEL: Yeah, but you know in your heart of hearts . . . you know that that’s a lot of baloney. I mean, there are a lot of black players, there are a lot of great black baseball men who would dearly love to be in managerial positions, and I guess what I’m really asking you is to, you know, peel it away a little bit. Just tell me, why you think it is. Is there still that much prejudice in baseball today?
CAMPANIS: No, I don’t believe it’s prejudice. I truly believe that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager.
KOPPEL: Do you really believe that?
CAMPANIS: Well, I don’t say that all of them, but they certainly are short. How many quarterbacks do you have? How many pitchers do you have that are black?
KOPPEL: Yeah, but I mean, I gotta tell you, that sounds like the same kind of garbage we were hearing 40 years ago about players, when they were saying, “Aah, not really . . . not really cut out. . . . Remember the days, you know, hit a black football player in the knees, and you know, no. . . . That really sounds like garbage, if . . . you’ll forgive me.”
CAMPANIS: No it’s not . . . it’s not garbage, Mr. Koppel, because I played on a college team, and the center fielder was black, and the backfield at NYU, with a fullback who was black, never knew the difference, whether he was black or white, we were teammates. So, it might just be . . . why are black men, or black people, not good swimmers? Because they don’t have the buoyancy.
KOPPEL: Oh, I don’t . . . it may just be that they don’t have access to all the country clubs and the pools. . . . From everything I understand, you’re a very decent man and a highly respected man in baseball. I confess to you, before we began this program, baseball is not one of my areas of expertise. I’d like to give you another chance to dig yourself out, because I think you need it.
CAMPANIS: Well, let me just say this, Mr. Koppel. How many executives do you have on a higher level or higher echelon in your business, in TV, I mean. . . .
KOPPEL: You’re absolutely right, but I. . . .
CAMPANIS: . . . or anchormen? How many black anchormen do you have?
KOPPEL: Fortunately. . . .
CAMPANIS: Let’s just. . . .
KOPPEL: . . . fortunately. . . .
CAMPANIS: . . . let’s just turn around.
KOPPEL: Yeah, fortunately, there are a few black anchormen, but if you want me to tell you why there aren’t many black executives, I’m not going to tell you it’s because the blacks aren’t intelligent enough. I’m going to tell you it’s because it is that whites have been . . . running the establishment of broadcasting just as they’ve been running the establishment of baseball for too long and seem to be reluctant to give up power. I mean, that’s what it finally boils down to, isn’t it?
CAMPANIS: Well, we have scouts in our organization who are black, and they’re very capable people. I have never said that blacks are not intelligent. I think many of them are highly intelligent, but they may not have the desire to be in the front office. I know that they have wanted to manage and some of them have managed, but they’re outstanding athletes, very God-gifted, and they’re very wonderful people, and that’s all I can tell you about them.
The transcript continues:
CAMPANIS: Well, Mr. Koppel, I think that Jackie Robinson probably did more for the acceptance of a black athlete than anyone that I have ever . . . have seen or know, but what you’ve got to realize that when you had the problems in the Civil War, it becomes a thing that doesn’t happen overnight. I think Robinson . . . Jackie did a tremendous job in making the black athlete acceptable in the areas in which it had never occurred before, namely, playing professional major league baseball. And if you look back and think about the fact that it took so long for an athlete, just . . . you’ve got to realize that it’s going to take a little time also for executives and managers. They have to sort of get into this just about the rate that Jackie did, which took a long time.
KOPPEL: I guess I don’t need to remind you, Mr. Campanis, when Jackie Robinson joined, you were a kid.
CAMPANIS: No, no, no, we played together.
KOPPEL: Yeah, I mean, but you were a kid, you were a youngster, right? You were what, in your 20s?
CAMPANIS: I was in my mid-20s, right.
KOPPEL: Mid-20s, all right, well, you’re a man in your mid-60s right now. How many generations is this going to take, do you think?
CAMPANIS: Well, I don’t have the crystal ball, Mr. Koppel, but I can only tell you that I think we’re progressing very well in the game of baseball. We have not stopped the black man from becoming an executive. They also have to have the desire, just as Jackie Robinson had the desire to become an outstanding ballplayer.
KOPPEL: Just as a matter of curiosity, Mr. Campanis, what is the percentage of black ballplayers, for example, in your franchise?
CAMPANIS: I would say, I think [sports journalist] Roger [Kahn, who was also on the show] mentioned the fact that about a third of the players are black. That might be a pretty good number, and deservedly so, because they are outstanding athletes. They are gifted with great musculature and various other things, they’re fleet of foot, and this is why there are a lot of black major league ballplayers. Now, as far as having the background to become club presidents, or presidents of a bank, I don’t know. But I do know when I look at a black ballplayer, I am looking at him physically and whether he has the mental approach to play in the big leagues.