The most celebrated bit of human anatomy last week was a tiny, bony spur on the left kneecap of Roy Campanella, part-time tropical fish fancier, part-time liquor store proprietor and, for the past fortnight, part-time catcher for the pennant-chasing Brooklyn Dodgers. Although scarcely larger than a pencil eraser, the spur quickly assumed mountainous proportions. Six seasons ago, another key player, Joe DiMaggio, had a spur on his heel that almost cost the Yankees the pennant. Though Brooklyn is far ahead now, the loss of Campy's bat could seriously endanger the Dodgers' chances of staying there.
The first hint that the oft-injured Campanella was again crippled came in St. Louis on June 19 when a foul tip ricocheted off his left shin guard. After the game, his knee was bathed in a whirlpool which seemed to ease the soreness and for the next few days, in Chicago and in Milwaukee, he caught only part of two games and missed four games completely.
But there was new trouble in the June 28 opener with the Giants. "In the first inning," Campanella recalls, "I ran over to the Giant dugout to catch a pop foul, stepped down one step and felt a stabbing pain." In the fourth inning he was pulled out, grimacing with pain. Next day, X rays were taken.
The plates, from which Paul Peck made these drawings, actually show not one but two spurs: the first growing on the right side of the patella (kneecap) and still intact; the second, at the upper left, snapped off at the base. A spur is a calcium overgrowth resulting from constant stress and/or repeated injury. In Campanella's case it probably stems from both: the strain on the thigh muscles to remain squatting and the injury to the knees each time he drops to block a low pitch.
Last week, Campy sat at home, his leg securely strapped from the calf to the thigh, watching on TV last-place Pittsburgh trounce the Dodgers.
The doctors say that he will be at home until the spur grows back on (it may take several weeks). Campanella says he'll be back for another crack at the Giants this week.