Editors Note: We're blogging through We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.
Roy Campanella was born on November 9, 1921, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up poor, helping his parents feed the family by doing odd jobs. At 16, he was signed to the Negro Leagues. He didn’t plan on being a baseball player - he actually wanted to be an architect. However, his talent kept him in the Negro Leagues, and in 1946, the Dodgers took notice. When he was signed, he was the second black man in the Dodger’s organization - right behind Jackie Robinson. He was recalled to be the regular Dodger catcher in 1948, where he quickly became a star. He was their starting catcher for 10 years.
Campanella owned a liquor store in Harlem to help make ends meet. One night - January 28, 1958 - Campanella’s rented sedan crashed into a telephone pole. Just like that, Campanella’s career was over - he was paralyzed from the neck down. During his recovery, he managed to get back some mobility in his arms. As Campanella recovered, he slowly started returning to parts of baseball he could do - a little broadcasting, a few appearances at ballparks, that sort of thing. He also started a fund for other people who have been paralyzed and students studying physical therapy.
Roy Campanella was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility. On June 26, 1993, Roy Campanella died of a heart attack.