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Greatest moments in Dodger history, No. 16: Roy Campanella Night

Roy Campanella Night

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the greatest moment countdown continues

I’m assuming everyone knows how this works by now, so I’m going to drop the explanatory introduction to these. If you need a reminder, click on any of the Nos. 20-25 greatest moments below.

Up next is one of the most emotional nights in Dodger history

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No. 16: Roy Campanella Night (54 first-place votes, 5,858 points)

Roy Campanella Night
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Listen to Vin Scully narrate Roy Campanella Night by clicking here.

Roy Campanella, the greatest catcher in Dodgers history and a three-time MVP, was expected to be one of the cornerstones of the team in their first few seasons in Los Angeles. That all changed on Jan. 28, 1958.

Campanella owned a liquor store (remember, these were the days when athletes needed off-season jobs just to make ends meet) in Harlem. On Jan. 28, he closed his store and drove home on a cold winter’s evening. While traveling on an S-curve on Dosoris Lane, his car hit a patch of ice and skidded off the road, overturning and hitting a telephone pole. Campanella suffered a broken neck, leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down. While he eventually regained use of his arms, he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

On May 7, 1959, the Dodgers paid tribute to Campanella by holding a special night in his honor before an exhibition game against their old rivals, the New York Yankees. And the people of Los Angeles showed how much they loved their new team and respected the team’s legends, as a record 93,103 people showed up for the game and to honor Campanella.

As thousands of lighters illuminated the Coliseum, Campanella was wheeled to home plate by Pee Wee Reese. The microphone was lowered, and 93,103 people remained totally silent as Campanella spoke:

“I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. This is something I’ll never forget as long as I live. I want to thank the Yankees for playing this game, and my old Dodgers team, too. It’s a wonderful tribute. I thank God I’m able to be here and see it.”

And with that, 93,103 people gave Roy Campanella a standing ovation that lasted for seven minutes. “My legs aren’t working, my heart is soaring,” Campanella said of the ovation.

Thirty years later, Campanella remembered the game, and team owner Walter O’Malley, who was responsible for organizing the special night.

“A lot of people didn’t know O’Malley for what he was,” Campanella said. “He stood by me every minute after my accident, helping me to see my way through. No one knows that after that wonderful night he had for me in the Coliseum when 93,000 showed up, he gave me a check for $50,000. And he continued my salary, which was more than $50,000 a year, for years after that. He was a great pioneer in integrating baseball.”

Previous greatest moments

No. 17: Rick Monday’s 1981 NLCS home run

No. 18: Rick Monday saves the flag

No. 19: Winning the 1988 World Series

No. 20: Winning the 1959 World Series

No. 21: Sandy Amorós’ catch in 1955 World Series

No. 22: Cody Bellinger’s catch in 2020 NLDS

No. 23: Justin Turner’s walkoff homer in 2017 NLCS

No. 24: Sandy Koufax strikes out 15 in 1963 World Series Game 1

No. 25: Mike Scioscia’s 1988 NLCS homer

No more Ask Ross Porter

Former Dodgers broadcaster Ross Porter, who has hosted the very popular “Ask Ross Porter” segment of this newsletter for five seasons, will not be returning this season. Ross did the segment for free (such is the state of our industry) and spent countless hours researching answers to your questions. On a personal note, I consider Ross a friend (he even wrote the foreword to my Dodgers book) and can’t thank him enough for making this newsletter much better with his contribution. The good news is you will still be able to keep track of Ross. He sent this farewell note:

“For the last five years it has been my pleasure to answer questions from fans in Houston’s outstanding newsletter, Dodgers Dugout. I have recently started my new website and will now field questions on it. ... Ross Porter Sports on Facebook and rossportersports.com on the web. Please let me hear from you, and thanks to Houston for the opportunity you gave me to connect with baseball lovers.”

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Dustin May strikes out seven in strong start as Dodgers tie San Diego Padres

And finally

Roy Campanella appears on “What’s My Line?” Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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