Al Campanis would’ve raised the first toast to Dave Roberts
I haven’t read every media account since Dave Roberts was named Dodgers manager, so I may be raising a point that has already been made:
The appointment of the Dodgers’ first Black skipper has to bring to mind the darkest chapter of a bright franchise. “Dark” in both a symbolic and literal sense.
Respected and long-time Dodgers GM Al Campanis sits on a stool in the middle of a darkened Astrodome minutes after the 1987 season opener, and is asked by ABC Nightline host Ted Koppel why there aren’t more Black managers in the Major Leagues.
And Campanis, a member since 1943 of the franchise that broke baseball’s color line, responds on the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut that Blacks “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager.”
Two days later, Campanis is fired.
I knew “Trader Al” well, and got to know him even better after that sad end to his career, since we lived a couple of miles apart in Orange County. He passed away in 1998 while he and I were in talks about doing his autobiography. He didn’t have a prejudicial cell in his body. He just wasn’t media savvy, or particularly fast on his feet.
Since that night in 1987, big-league clubs have added 10 Black managers, bringing the total since Frank Robinson broke that color line in 1975 and through 2015 to 13, still way below what it should be.
Now Dave Roberts makes it 14. Nobody would bet happier about that than Al Campanis.