November 2, 1916|
Kos, Dodecanese Islands
|Died: June 21, 1998
|Batted: Switch||Threw: Right|
|September 23, 1943 for the Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 3, 1943 for the Brooklyn Dodgers|
Alexander Sebastian Campanis (born Alessandro Campani, November 2, 1916 – June 21, 1998) was an American executive in Major League Baseball. He had a brief Major League career as a second baseman, playing for both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' minor-league team. Campanis is most famous for his position as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1968 to 1987, from which he was fired on April 6, 1987 as a result of controversial remarks regarding blacks in baseball during an interview on Nightline.
Al Campanis was born to Greek-speaking parents in Kos, a small island within the Dodecanese Islands, on November 2, 1916. Kos has been part of Greece since 1947, although, at the time of Campanis' birth, it belonged to Italy.
After graduating, Campanis became a professional baseball player, signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was then sent to play with several minor-league teams, including the Macon Peaches. He eventually played for the Brooklyn Dodgers as a second baseman for seven games in 1943. He then served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer. After returning from the war, he played for the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' minor-league team, with Jackie Robinson as one of his teammates.
Campanis moved with the team to Los Angeles when they became the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958. He then became the Dodgers' general manager in 1968. In one of Campanis' first trades as general manager of the Dodgers, Campanis traded his own son Jim, to the Kansas City Royals for two minor leaguers.
Campanis' remarks took place on the late-night ABC News program Nightline, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's Major League Baseball debut (April 15, 1947). Campanis, who had played alongside Robinson and was known for being close to him, was being interviewed about the subject. Nightline anchorman Ted Koppel asked him why, at the time, there had been few black managers and no black general managers in Major League Baseball. Campanis's reply was that blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager" for these positions. Elsewhere in the interview he said that blacks are often poor swimmers "because they don't have the buoyancy." Koppel says he gave Campanis several opportunities to clarify ("Do you really believe that?") or back down on his remarks but Campanis confirmed his views with his replies. A protest erupted the next morning and he resigned two days later.
The controversy was especially heated when it was pointed out that Campanis had participated in the decision over who would replace Walter Alston as the manager of the Dodgers. It had been a choice between the two coaches at the time, Tommy Lasorda and Jim Gilliam, and it raised the question of whether Gilliam had been passed over because he was black.
In an interview the next year, Campanis attempted to clarify that he was referring to the lack of African-Americans with experience in these areas, rather than their innate abilities. He also said that he was "wiped out" when the interview took place and therefore not entirely himself. Many other figures in baseball, such as Dodgers field manager Tommy Lasorda and former Dodgers player Don Newcombe, have also spoken in Campanis' defense.
In 1988, Campanis also said that "Time has diffused the immediate hurt of April 6," and that "It has turned out to be a plus for baseball and myself."
Personal life and family
On June 21, 1998, Al Campanis died at his Fullerton, California home of coronary artery disease. He was 81. Mr. Campanis was survived by his sons, George and Jim, who caught for the Dodgers, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was interred in the Mausoleum crypt at Loma Vista Memorial Park in Fullerton, California.
- Former Dodgers GM Al Campanis Dead at 81, Associated Press, June 21, 1998
- Gary Bedingfield's Baseball in Wartime: Al Campanis
- Al Campanis -- forever a racist? Jewish World Review, July 2, 1998
- Murray Polner. "Will Ozzie Guillen Go the Same Way as Al Campanis?" History News Network, April 16, 2012
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- In-depth article on the interview by Bob Baker
- Al Campanis at Find a Grave
|Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager