A young man walks over from the next section and, looking slightly embarrassed, asks Campy if he knows what the ruling would be if a batter broke his bat hitting the ball and part of the bat hit the ball again before it was fielded. Campanella rolls his eyes. "Seen a lot happen," he says, "but never that."
Tommy Davis, the Dodger batting star of the 1960s, stops by. "It's always a pleasure to be in the company of such a gentleman," Davis says. Campy gives him an owl-eyed look that says, Get outta here.
A well-dressed man slightly older than Campy's 68 years strides up, smiling broadly. "How're ya doin', partner?" he says, clapping a hand on Campanella's shoulder. Campy smiles effusively. His visitor is Al Campanis, who was forced out of his job as a Dodger vice-president in 1987 after he told television interviewer Ted Koppel that blacks lacked the "necessities" to hold executive positions in baseball. As Campanella listens attentively, Campanis tells a story: "You remember the time I played against you [in the minors], and your pitcher, Roy Partlow, knocked me down with a pitch? I was lying there in the dirt, and then you said, 'Get up. We weren't throwing at you. We only throw at good hitters.' " Campy laughs. It is a veteran laugher's laugh, almost a cry.
Campy watches the Dodgers and Astros play. He maneuvers his battery-powered wheelchair back and forth according to the tempo of the game. "Now, that Scioscia," he says, as the catcher comes to bat, "he's easy to work with, very coachable. One trouble with players now is that all they think about is money. But Scioscia listens. For example, when I was playing I always saw to it that I caught the ball in the middle of my body. If the pitch was outside, I'd take the steps to get there, not just reach out for the ball. I'd block that low pitch and keep it in front of me. Biz Mackey, my old manager in the Negro leagues with the Baltimore Elite Giants, was one of the best catchers I've ever seen. He worked with me constantly on my defense, on my throwing. I always had a quick release. I caught with my right hand on my mitt, so I was always ready to throw. It was hard for runners to advance on me. Ain't no man capable of outrunning a baseball if it's thrown fast and thrown right. Nowadays, catchers field the ball one-handed. They try to catch low pitches instead of blocking them."
Campy is no mere house icon. He is in the Dodger Stadium clubhouse before nearly every game, offering counsel and encouragement. "When he speaks, everyone listens," says Scioscia. "He doesn't miss a thing. He'll come in the day after a game and ask me, 'Now why did you call for that pitch when the count was two and two?' What an amazing individual! He's gone through a life that none of us, hopefully, will have to endure, but he's come out of it so strong he makes all the rest of us look like wimps. I just thank God I've had the chance to know him."
Campy works just as hard during spring training, where, says Peter O'Malley, "He makes our day, and we make his."
"Oh, yes," says Campy, "down there, I put on my baseball shirt and my cap, and I'm in this wheelchair, and I'm going all over the place. I get out early and work with the catchers, even the veterans. I don't care how old you are, you'll see something in this game you've never seen before. I tell them what I've seen." He smiles. "Oh, I ride around in my powered chair, all charged up, talking to everybody. I'm all charged up, that is, unless my batteries run down." He hits the red lever that controls his chair and moves closer to the aisle. He stares straight ahead at the field. "This is my life, you know."
Campanella Spent six months at the Rusk Institute. "You go to school there," he says. "You go to two or three classes before lunch and two or three after. You learn how to adjust to the wheelchair, how to get in and out of cars, how to answer the telephone, how to dial the telephone, how to use the adding machine and all the gadgets you need to write and eat with. And then there's the psychological thing. Paralyzed people can get so depressed. Thank goodness, that part of it didn't bother me. When they put me in that wheelchair, I accepted it. For one thing, I was just happy to get out of bed.'
Campanella once told his old battery-mate, Carl Erskine, "This chair is my freedom. It is the only thing in my life I can control." Erskine visited him at the Rusk Institute early in the 1958 season while the Dodgers were playing in Philadelphia. "He was in a special kind of bed with an apparatus holding his head still," Erskine recalls. "Roy and I just looked at each other at first. I think when he saw me, he saw the team, and it saddened him. And then he showed that unbelievable spirit that just dumbfounds people. He started talking about his rehabilitation, how excited he was that they were going to give him the chance to lift a five-pound weight with his right hand. And I remembered how strong that right arm once was, how many base runners I'd seen him throw out with it. There was a painting on the wall, a snow scene. When I looked at it, Roy told me with great enthusiasm that it was painted by one of the patients at the institute, a young boy who held the brush in his teeth. He was so proud of that boy. Roy just loves life, you see, and he's going to get out of it all there is."
On May 7, 1959, he was given leave from the institute to attend Roy Campanella Night at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. The largest crowd in baseball history, 93,103, turned out to honor him. And in the middle of the fifth inning of the night's exhibition game between those old World Series foes, the New York Yankees and the Dodgers, Pee Wee Reese wheeled Campy out between the mound and second base. The Coliseum lights were extinguished, and the huge crowd was asked to light matches for Campy. The crippled catcher sat there in the darkness and looked up as thousands of lights flickered on all round him. "I'll never forget this as long as I live," he said.