Ruthe and the children were with him for the ceremony, but the marriage never recovered from the accident. Campanella was making the terrible adjustment to the restricted life that remained for him, but his wife was not. On Aug. 2, 1960, he filed for a legal separation, citing, among other reasons, adultery. The fine house at Morgan's Island was sold, and Roy moved into an apartment building in Harlem, near his liquor store. And then, in January 1963, nearly five years to the day after his accident, Ruthe died of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was only 40.
"Ruthe dumped [Roy] real fast after he got hurt," says Dodger manager and former Campanella teammate Tommy Lasorda. "And then she died. It makes you wonder, doesn't it?"
Campanella had met Roxie Doles at a basketball game in Harlem's Renaissance Casino in the winter of 1957. Four years later, they found themselves neighbors in the Lenox Terrace apartments after the Campanellas were separated and Roxie was widowed. "I knew how to take care of a paralyzed person from my nursing days," she says. "One day I told him I'd be ready to help anytime he needed me." As it happened, Roy's attendant, Benny Ikard, had been arrested for nonpayment of parking tickets that very day, so Campy really did need her. As the months passed, the need became mutual, and on May 5, 1964, they were married. They moved to a 16-room house in Hartsdale, in suburban Westchester County, with his three children and her two.
Campanella's troubles continued over the years. In the summer of 1976, he returned to the Rusk Institute, suffering from dangerous bedsores. During the next year, the sores required several major operations involving skin grafts and blood transfusions. Campanella was in fragile health, and the eastern winters were becoming, for him, unbearable. Newcombe had long urged him to "get out of that weather" and come to Southern California. And so, in the spring of 1978, Campy called Peter O'Malley. "These winters are getting rough," he said.
"O.K., come on out," said O'Malley, who grew up a Campy fan. "We've got a job for you." The job, as an assistant to Newcombe in the Dodgers' community relations department, was tailor-made for a man who likes nothing better than talking to people. Campanella sold his liquor store and an apartment building that he owned and headed west once more. After 20 years, he was an active Dodger again.
On an april afternoon in 1946, Buzzy Bavasi, then general manager of the Dodgers' Class B farm club in Nashua, N.H., got a most peculiar phone call from Bob Finch, Branch Rickey's secretary. "He told me to meet him in the office of the local newspaper editor at midnight," Bavasi recalls. "Midnight? I wondered what the hell was going on. When I got there, Finch told me Mr. Rickey wanted me to take two players named Campanella and Newcombe. 'Can they play?' I asked him. 'We think they can,' he said. 'Then what's the problem?' I said. 'They're colored,' he said. 'If they can play,' I told him, 'then that's no problem.' "
Rickey had signed the two players in March, not long after Robinson's historic signing, but little publicity had attended Campanella's and Newcombe's arrival on the scene. Robinson would make his high-profile debut in 1946 with Montreal in Triple A ball. The Dodgers were looking for a lesser league for Campy and Newk and having a hard time finding one. The president of the Three-I League—named, perhaps appropriately, Tom Fairweather—had threatened to shut down his entire operation if blacks were assigned to the Dodgers' farm team at Danville, Ill. " Nashua was the only club that would have us," says Newcombe.
Big Newk, a 27-game winner, National League Cy Young winner and MVP in 1956, was 19 at the start of the '46 season and had played two seasons with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. He was 6'4" and could throw hard, but Class B was about where he belonged. Campanella was 24 and had been playing Negro league baseball for nine years.
Newcombe was a teenager when he first faced Campy in a Negro National League game. "My manager told me to knock him down," recalls Newk. "Well, I'm only 17, and I don't know anything, so I throw the first pitch right over his head, thinking that's what they wanted. I throw him one more pitch after that, and he knocks it a mile into the seats."
In 1944, when he was 20 years old, pitcher Joe Black was briefly Campy's teammate on the old Elite Giants—"That's pronounced Eee-light Giants," Black says. "White people always get that wrong." The already veteran catcher, barely three years older than Black, took the young pitcher under his wing. "He was my mentor on and off the field," says Black. "The Negro leagues had their fans, you know, and a lot of them were women. Campy would warn me about all that. He was my tutor. Heck, he played all the positions then—outfield, infield, and he even tried to pitch."