New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: C

Roy Campanella

Roy Campanella (Baseball.  Born, Philadelphia, PA, Nov. 19, 1921; died, Woodland Hills, CA, June 26, 1993.)  One of the most respected catchers of his era, Roy Campanella was an outstanding handler of pitchers, but it was as a hitter that he earned most of his headlines.  During his 10-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Campanella hit 242 homers, setting a then-N.L. record for home runs by a catcher.  He was the league’s M.V.P. in 1951, 1953 and 1955.  His most productive season was 1953, when he hit 41 homers, drove in 142 runs and batted .312.  As a 26-year-old rookie in 1948, Campanella appeared in 83 games, but never played fewer than 103 any year after that until a tragic automobile accident in Jan. 1958 ended his career.  The crash left Campanella disabled but did not rob him of the cheerful disposition that had made him perhaps the most requested guest on Happy Felton’s “Knot Hole Gang” television show, which originated from Ebbets Field.  Campanella played 1,215 games in his career.  He had 856 r.b.i. and a .276 career batting average.  His Brooklyn teams won five National League pennants from 1949-56 and he hit a pair of home runs in the 1955 World Series when the Dodgers finally defeated the Yankees for their first Series title.  He signed with the Dodgers in 1946 and joined the Brooklyn club the year after Jackie Robinson broke the color line.

Al Campanis

Al Campanis (Baseball.  Born, Kos, Greece, Nov. 2, 1916; died, Fullerton, CA, June 21, 1998.)  Born in the Dodecanese Islands of Greece, Alexander Sebastian Campanis emigrated to the U.S. with his family at age six.  Campanis was a natural all-around athlete.  He was a multi-sport standout at Manhattan’s George Washington H.S. and then matriculated at N.Y.U.  There, Campanis won three varsity letters in football (as an end, 1937-39) and three more in baseball, captaining the 1940 team for Bill McCarthy.  He became a phys. ed. instructor at City College and coached junior varsity football while playing minor league baseball.  In 1943, he played at Montreal and was called up for seven games with Brooklyn as a second baseman before going into the U.S. Navy for the balance of World War II.  After the war, Campanis played shortstop for Montreal in 1946 with Jackie Robinson as his second baseman.  He then managed in the Dodgers minor league system, becoming a scout in 1950.  Campanis also managed Cienfuegas in the Cuban winter league (1953-54) before becoming director of scouting for Brooklyn in 1957.  Throughout this period, he pushed for the integration of baseball, a policy he continued after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.  Suddenly, on Apr. 6, 1987, Campanis found himself pilloried across the nation as a racist.  He had made an emergency appearance on ABC’s Nightline with Ted Koppel the night before and was grilled on the lack of black managers in baseball.  Campanis replied, “ . . . you have to pay your dues to become a manager.  Generally, you have to go to the minor leagues.  There’s not much pay involved and some of the better-known black players have been able to go into other fields and make a pretty good living that way.”  Recognizing that rational responses do not make “good television,” Koppel derided Campanis’ answer and demanded to know why baseball was prejudiced.  Campanis said, “No, I don’t believe it’s prejudice.  It’s just that they may not have some of the necessities . . ..”  The Dodgers demanded his resignation as vice president of player personnel and the baseball career of Robinson’s one-time roommate was over.

Bill Campbell

Bill Campbell (College football.  Born, Homestead, PA, Aug. 31, 1940.)  A smallish but intensely competitive guard at Columbia (1959-61), William Vincent Campbell was an outstanding on-field leader.  Campbell captained the 1961 Columbia team that earned an Ivy League co-championship (with Harvard).  Called “the best captain I ever had” by veteran coach Buff Donelli, he joined Donelli’s staff in 1962.  In 1968, Campbell became an assistant coach at Boston College but returned to Columbia as head coach in 1974.  His 1978 team started 3-1-1 but on Oct. 28 was demolished, 69-0, by Rutgers at Giants Stadium.  The Lions lost 12 of their next 13 games and Campbell resigned after a 1-8 season in 1979.  He was 12-41-1 overall in six seasons.  The intensity and enthusiasm that made him a dynamo on the field despite his lack of size (he played at about 160 pounds) stood him in good stead in his post-football career.  Campbell became a hugely successful executive in the burgeoning computer industry, first at Apple Computer, then at Intuit.

Clarence Campbell

Clarence Campbell (Hockey.  Born, Fleming, Sask., July 10, 1905; died, Montreal, P.Q., June 24, 1984.)  After service at the Nuremberg trials, Clarence Campbell, a former on-ice official and an attorney, became the third president of the National Hockey League in 1946, succeeding Mervyn Dutton.  During his 31 years at the N.H.L.’s helm, Campbell dealt with major discipline problems, including the suspension of Montreal’s Maurice Richard for the entire 1955 Stanley Cup playoffs that led to riots.  He also helped oversee the expansion of the league from six teams to 18.  Unfortunately, his reputation was tainted by a business scandal several years after his 1977 retirement.

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell (Hockey.  Born, London, Ont., Jan. 28, 1953.)  A journeyman defenseman in a 12-year career in the W.H.A. and N.H.L., Colin John Campbell became the 28th head coach of the Rangers Aug. 9, 1994, succeeding Mike Keenan, who led them to the Stanley Cup that spring and then resigned.  Campbell got a late start on the job when a labor dispute shortened the 1994-95 season to 48 games.  His first three teams all made the playoffs and advanced at least one round (the 1996-97 team bolstered in part by the addition of Wayne Gretzky).  But the Rangers were only 17-24-16 when Cambpell was fired during the league’s Olympic hiatus Feb. 18, 1998.  Campbell was 118-108-43 during his term.  He later became executive vice president and director of hockey operations for the N.H.L., essentially the league’s majordomo of discipline.

John Campbell

John Campbell (Harness racing.  Born, Ailsa Craig, Ont., Apr. 8, 1955.)  Coming originally to The Meadowlands as a trainer-driver with a small stable, John D. Campbell emerged as one of the most successful drivers in the history of harness racing.  Campbell holds the sport’s record for purse earnings with just under $220 million, more than half of that earned at The Meadowlands, the highest-profile venue in harness racing.  There, he was dominant, with 16 driving titles from 1979-2001.  Campbell excels in million-dollar races, with a record 20 victories, including five in the famed Hambletonian for three-year-old trotters (1987 with Mack Lobell, 1988 with Armbro Goal, 1990 with Harmonious, 1995 with Tagliabue, and 1998 with Muscles Yankee).

Oliver Campbell

Oliver Campbell (Tennis.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Feb. 25, 1871; died, Campbelltown, N.B., July 11, 1953.)  In the summer between his junior and senior years at Columbia, Oliver Samuel Campbell went to Newport, R.I.  While there, Campbell won the U.S. national singles tennis championship for 1890, beating defending champion Henry W. Slocum, Jr., 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in the challenge round.  Generally considered America’s first player to rush the net, he also became the youngest man (19 years, six months, nine days) to win the singles title (a distinction surpassed a century later by Pete Sampras).  Campbell successful defended his title in 1891 (against Clarence Hobart) and 1892 (over Fred Hovey) in the days when the champion played only one match, against the winner of the all-comers tournament, but did not defend in 1893, retiring to pursue a business career.  He was no stranger to championships, having won the national doubles title (with Valentine G. Hall) in 1888.  Campbell also won the doubles crown in 1891 and 1892, pairing with Robert P. Huntington, Jr.  Campbell was ranked in the U.S. Top 10 five straight years starting in 1888 (eighth) and 1889 (third), and then, naturally, No. 1.

Lou Campi

Lou Campi (Bowling.  Born, Verona, Italy, March 18, 1905; died, Dumont, NJ, Aug. 31, 1989.)  Luigi (Lou) Campi was one of the most famous of the Eastern bowlers in the earliest days of the sport on television by virtue of performing a feat that defied astronomical odds.  In 1948, Campi was selected as the first Eastern bowler in a live television series of head-to-head matches against the best of the Western bowlers.  The series, staged at the Bowlmor Lanes on 14th Street in Manhattan, was to run 13 weeks.  When either an Eastern or Western bowler lost, he was to be replaced by another star from that region of the country.  No other Eastern bowler ever appeared on the series.  Defeating such great stars as Ray Bluth, Don Carter and Dick Weber, Campi rolled through the entire 13-week series without a defeat.  When the series was extended an extra week (with a new sponsor), he won again.  Finally, in the 15th week, he was beaten, and the series ended.  Campi also holds the distinction of winning the first event ever staged by the Professional Bowlers Association, the 1959 Empire State Open at Albany, N.Y.  By 1959, Campi was near the end of his career as a top-flight bowler, but he had been a B.P.A.A. All-American in 1957, which was also the year he won his second B.P.A.A. All-Star doubles title (teamming with his pal Al Faragalli).  Campi, who bowled six sanctioned 300 games during his brilliant career, was also part of the 1948 B.P.A.A. doubles championship.

Tom Canavan

Tom Canavan (Sportswriter.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Jan. 21, 1954.)  As New Jersey sports editor for The Associated Press since Oct. 1984, Thomas Francis Canavan is responsible for a wide range of professional and collegiate sports coverage in the state.  Canavan handles coverage of the N.F.L. Giants, the N.B.A. Nets, and the N.H.L. Devils, as well as Rutgers, Princeton, and other New Jersey colleges, and major events in the state, such as Army-Navy football when the game is played at Giants Stadium.  He joined the A.P. in New York sports as a clerk in 1979.  Canavan moved to Indianapolis, Ind., as a newsman in Dec. 1982, and Detroit, Mich., in the same capacity in June 1983 before coming to New Jersey.

Bill Cane

Bill Cane (Harness racing.  Born, Jersey City, NJ, Aug. 5, 1874; died, Miami Beach, FL, Mar. 27, 1956.)  Following his father into the building trade, William Henry Cane also developed a passion for buying and driving trotting horses.  His avocation eventually became the main focus of Cane’s life.  His Good Time Stable in the Orange County town of Goshen, N.Y., became one of harness racing’s top winners on the Grand Circuit, helped by the training and driving of Walter Cox.  Cane won the Hambletonian with Walter Dear in 1929, starting a long association with the three-year-old trotting classic.  Cane, the premier trotting promoter of his time, defied skeptics by luring the Hambletonian to his Good Time Park in Goshen in 1930.  He turned the heat race into a national media event that drew large crowds to the tiny town an hour north of New York City.  After 27 years, the Hambletonian’s Goshen era ended after Cane’s death when the event was shifted to DuQuoin, Ill., in 1957.  Cane also headed the group that purchased the old Empire City thoroughbred track in Westchester and converted it to Yonkers Raceway in 1950.  The Cane Pace, part of the pacing Triple Crown, honors the memory of this influential figure in the sport’s history. – M.F.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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