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Jewish World Review /July 2, 1998 / 8 Tamuz, 5758

Larry Elder

Larry Elder Al Campanis -- forever a racist?


"(Blacks) may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager." -- former Dodger general manager Al Campanis in 1987 on ABC's "Nightline"

Or "disadvantaged" students lack the "genetic hereditary background to have a higher average" on standardized tests. -- the president of Rutgers University, Francis Lawrence, at a meeting in November 1994

Al Campanis later explained his remarks, "When I said blacks lack the 'necessities' to be managers or general managers, what I meant was the lack of necessary experience, not things like inherent intelligence or ability. I was dead-tired after traveling when I went on the show. I got confused. It was like a telegram -- you try to say it in a few words, and it's implied differently." Lame, you say?
Former Dodgers manager,
Tommy Lasorda,
called Campanis,
"my mentor."

Consider President Lawrence's defense. He was thinking about the book The Bell Curve, which argues that, for genetic reasons, blacks fail to perform as well as others on standardized tests. See, Lawrence found the book so immoral that he refused to read it. But, apparently, it was, like, on his mind, causing him to say the very opposite of how he truly feels. Yeah.

Now, Al Campanis, who just died, lost his job for his "racial insensitivity." President Lawrence, on the other hand, withstanding protests and cries for resignation, retained his job. Why? Well, Lawrence's defenders portrayed him as pro-minority, pro-diversity and pro-affirmative action, citing his long-standing record in advancing causes sympathetic to minorities.

Well, what about Al Campanis' record?

When Jackie Robinson broke the modern major league color barrier in 1947, Campanis, then a Brooklyn Dodger infielder, offered, repeat offered, to room with him. Campanis taught Robinson how to turn a double play to avoid spiking by the charging, Robinson-hating base runners. Throw the ball at the base runner's forehead, Campanis advised. Do that a couple times, he said, and goodbye, human javelins.

As a player development executive with the Dodgers, Campanis signed, among others, Roberto Clemente, Willie Davis and Tommy Davis.

"(Campanis) didn't have a racist bone in his body." -- Vin Scully, longtime Dodger broadcaster and the most respected announcer in sports.

"What happened to him ... was unfortunate. He was just the opposite of what he was accused of being." -- Dodger third-base coach, Joe Amalfitano

"While in the minor leagues, Campanis once threw down his glove during a game and challenged an opponent who was bullying Robinson. He was also known to invite Robinson to eat with him while many other whites chose to keep their distance." -- Robert Kuwada, Orange County Register sportswriter.

"You hate that any man's career is ruined in a couple of minutes. What he said was wrong, but he was always cool to minorities when I was there, especially the Latin players, and the blacks." -- San Francisco manager Dusty Baker, and former Dodger outfielder.

"It's sad to think that Al leaves the world with an unjustifiable reputation. He never judged a player on the basis of color. The only thing he wanted to know was 'can he play?' He dedicated his life to the Dodgers and did more for Latin and black players than anyone in baseball. I'll stand on that statement." -- Dodger general manager Tommy Lasorda

"Mr. Campanis was a great person, a great human being. He treated everyone with a great deal of respect. He gave the Latin players a lot of opportunities to play in the Dodger organization. We called him the 'father of Latin baseball.'" -- former Dodger player and current coach Manny Mota.

"I've never been around a fairer man in my life." -- longtime Dodger infielder and former manager Bill Russell.

"I'm sad not only for his passing but for the way people will remember him. That's not the way I will remember him. There are a lot of racists in the world, on both sides, and he wasn't one of them. He helped Roy so much when he was coming through the major leagues. He molded a lot of young men into men." -- Roxie Campanella, the widow of former Dodger catcher Roy Campanella.

Jesse Jackson once called Jews "Hymie" and New York "Hymietown." He apologized. We forgave. Former President Harry S. Truman, in a letter, once called New York "Kiketown," yet his support was instrumental in the creation of the state of Israel. Richard Nixon made anti-Semitic remarks on the famous Watergate tapes, yet appointed the first Jewish secretary of state and had important and influential Jewish advisers.

Following the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls championship, an excited Vice President Al Gore said, "How about that Michael Jackson. That Michael Jackson is just unbelievable!" If Dan Quayle says it, that's at least five jokes on Leno. If Al Campanis says it, it's "See, I told you."


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©1998, Laurence A. Elder