Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Catcher Project: Roy Campanella

Born: 11-19-21
Career: 1948-57
Hall of Fame: Yes
Career highlights: Three times MVP (1951, 1953, 1955). Led NL in RBIs in 153 (142). Named to eight All-Star teams. Regular catcher for five World Series teams, winning one.
Career slash line: .276/.360/.500

Games caught after age 30 season: 593. Age in last season as regular catcher: 35. Win shares after age 30 season: 94. Win share after age 33 season: 23

Roy Campanella's major league career was shortened on both ends — by segregation at the start, by the car crash that left him paralyzed at the end.

While many of his old teammates spoke wistfully of how many homers Campy would have hit had he made to the Los Angeles Coliseum with its short distance to left field, it appears fairly clear in retrospect that he was already a shell of his former self when the crash happened.

It's a startling thing to realize that out of this pool of 14 outstanding catchers, two — Campanella and Mickey Cochrane — had their careers abruptly ended by life-threatening injury in their mid-30s. And had I gone with a slightly larger pool, it would have included Thurman Munson, who died in a plane crash at age 32.

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