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Al Campanis: 20 years later

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Football_Bat, Apr 6, 2007.

  1. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    Hard to believe that 20 years to the day have passed since Al Campanis appeared on Nightline and had this to say about African-Americans:

    Blacks ''may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager.'' He also said, "Why are black people not good swimmers? Because they don't have the buoyancy."

    The reason Campanis was invited on to Nightline was, ironically, the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking the color barrier.

    A lot of things have changed for the better since the night of April 6, 1987. But I'm sure baseball has some areas where it has some ways to go in opportunities for minorities (including Latin-Americans).
  2. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Actually, major league baseball has -- in the eyes of many -- become all but irrelevant to the African-American community, not much more socially significant to that demographic than NASCAR.

    The straw that stirs that drink is the NBA, with the NFl in the mix at a pretty high level.

    Not sure which baseball you're watching that's limited the opportunities for Latin Americans. Maybe I'm missing something.
  3. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    The Dodgers book "True Blue" has a really interesting section on the Al Campanis incident. It describes how Campanis was older and a bit confused, and he was on the road trip with the Dodgers and was thus tired, making him old, tired and confused. For Nightline, they actually set up a chair at home plate in the Astrodome with a spotlight, Campanis sitting there in the middle of the darkness with the beat guys still lingering in the press box. One of the beat guys is quoted saying "I told the guy next to me, "It looks like the Chief's in the electric chair!" Which, of course, we find out later, he was."

    The chapter quotes Ted Koppel about how Campanis was obviously from an old-school view of things, regardless of the fact he had been a GM who never cared about a player's race if he could help the team. In that spotlight, with the world watching, he spouted off the old BS held by ignorant people, and that was it. Koppel tried to help Campanis dig himself out, but the dude was just so determined to make his stupid point. Then Roger Kahn rightfully nailed him in the middle of his blathering, and that was that.

    I remember watching it, and thinking how fascinating it was to watch a man's entire life come down around him, with no one to blame but himself. He was brought on the show as a supporter of Jackie Robinson, expected to give good, canned quotes about the seminal event that was the breaking of the color barrier. And instead, he screwed up as badly as you could, paving the way for Tim Hardaway and others. That unpredictability remains part of what keeps journalism so vibrant, in my opinion.

    The book notes that the Dodgers still took care of him, making sure he had tickets when he needed them, etc. And apparently Peter O'Malley was quite ready to stand with Campanis in respect to all he had done for the organization, according to Campanis' son. But Campanis resigned to get the Dodgers out of trouble.


    And a partial transcript:

  4. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    The saddest thing was people I trust swore up and down that Campanis wasn't a racist. Some baseball guys of his generation were, and would say the most vile things when they were in a relaxed setting.

    But the blather about lacking "the necessities?" When a boob like Danny Ozark can manage successfully, there are no "necessities" other than good players.
  5. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    It works for so many generations.
  6. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    Covered the Dodgers-Astros game that night. Many memories.

    I was barely in my second year as a full-timer in the business. It was my third Major League Baseball game as a reporter, I think, and my first since the last game that had been played in the Astrodome before that night: Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS. That's a whole other story.

    Anyway, driving near the 610 Loop and Kirby I saw a billboard from fans upset the Astros had let Gene Elston go to make Milo Hamilton their carnival barker. The sign was mostly supportive of Elston, whose voice I grew up listening to on the radio and helped draw me into baseball.

    In the press box corridor I bumped into Elston, who was there for CBS Radio. Told him I enjoyed his work and couldn't understand why the Astros didn't renew his contract. He was very gracious.

    Game was tight. Orel Hershiser vs. Mike Scott. Both had good stuff that night. Jose Cruz won it for Houston, 4-3, with a seventh-inning HR. Dave Smith got the save. On a tight deadline and surprised there was no piped-in postgame press conference on the press box speakers (I was a newbie and didn't realize that was probably reserved for playoff games), I remembered hearing the radio broadcast in the men's room, quickly ducked in there, scribbled some Cruz quotes on a note pad and filed my story one or two minutes before deadline.

    Went to the Lunching Pad for a postgame sammich. Saw Vin Scully holding court at a table with about six other gentlemen of his generation and decided I wanted to sit as close to them as possible and overhear as many good baseball stories as I could get away with hearing. To my surprise, Scully was talking about the Vatican bank scandal, the politics of Rome and other tangents about Italy. Someone in the group remarked Campanis would have enjoyed the conversation and would probably have had a lot to say about it. Scully said he was somewhere in the building "doing the Koppel show."

    The next day, I found out the rest of the story.
  7. heyabbott

    heyabbott Well-Known Member

    Just Al being Al
  8. boots

    boots New Member

    Al was not a racist. He was an old man whose wires got crossed at the wrong time before a national audience. He was old school and was very kind to all. He just spoke what his generation felt.
    African Americans today are not moving towards baseball for a number of reasons. For starters, there aren't many fields in urban areas. Many consider baseball to be boring and at many high schools, the best athletes are harvested for the basketball and football teams.
    As far as the Latino community is concerned, baseball is big. Major League teams like the plethora of Latin talent and to a certain extent, those players, because they reside in climates where the game is played all year, are better than players in the United States both African American and White.
    In hindsight, Al's comments may have done a lot for sports in general. Tony Dungy, Willie Randolph, Maurice Cheeks, and others wouldn't have received a shot if not for his remark.
  9. JackyJackBN

    JackyJackBN Guest

    This thread deserves bumping to the top. Piotr, thanks for cluing me in to the book:
  10. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure I buy that at all about Dungy, Randolf or Cheeks not getting their shot without Al Campanis making an ignorant jackass of himself on national TV, but I see the point you are trying to make. Many years after those comments, Randolph still took a while to get his shot as a major league manager despite being a candidate more than once.

    And I don't think Al Campanis was a hateful person, if that's what you mean. But his statements were racist and all being tired and old did was make him foolish enough to make them out loud.
  11. heyabbott

    heyabbott Well-Known Member

    Campanis didn't say anything worse or intentionally hateful than Reggie White did.
  12. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    Well, black people have learned how to swim since then:

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