You only have memories if you are old enough

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Lately, I have been thinking back on all the wonderful relationships I have enjoyed over the years. It's been almost fifty years since Arthur Price and the late Alan Bernard convinced me to leave MCA and join Andy Williams relocating from New York to California. The best move I ever made.

As I contemplated what to write and whom to write about, I realized my friend of 66 years, Earle Wolfe was joining the world of we Octogenarians. To me, he was always the best-unsigned outfielder, never scouted.

Speaking of scouting this column then is about my old friend Al Campanis. Why Al? In all his years with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers going from Ballplayer to Scout to General Manager. It was Al who scouted and signed among other players the "Great" Sandy Koufax considered by many the best left-handed pitcher of all time.

Even the youngsters who read my column on a regular basis, probably will recognize his name as the Dodger's finest General Manager the whose career was instantly shattered by unfortunate remarks he made on national TV.  Those remarks in no way reflected the man he was.

 

  I spent many a Sunday Double Header in his Box at Dodger Stadium having breakfast while we talked about everything including his life's philosophy which he espoused in his wonderful book, "The Dodger Way".

Born in Greece, Al moved to New York with his parents when he was 6. A Greek Immigrant, Al Campanis with parents who talked Greek, seemed unlikely to ever scale the heights of Major League Baseball. But scale them he did!

After he graduated from New York University in 1940, he signed the then Brooklyn Dodgers.  There were lots of stops along his way to the majors; among them was the Montreal Royals.

 Here he played alongside his friend Jackie Robinson. He then briefly played at 2nd for the Brooklyn Dodgers. World War II made his playing career short-lived. At the time, he was the only native-born Greek to play in the Major leagues.

After the war, it was clear that Al had an eye for talent.  He often spoke about when he first saw teenager Roberto Clements and signed him immediately. The Dodgers didn't protect the kid and he was taken in the supplemental draft by Pittsburgh.

Soon he became chief scout for the team recording multiple successful signings. Al had an eye for talent, yet some got away.  He often told about when he first saw teenager Roberto Clements and signed him immediately, but the Dodgers didn't protect the kid and he was taken in the supplemental draft be Pittsburgh.

In 1968 he became General Manager. The first thing he did was trade his son Jimmy to Kansas City. He was G.M.  for 19 years. In1987, while exhausted, he went on ABC's Nightline.  There he was asked questions about Blacks as potential managers. The Dodgers had just selected Italian Tommy Lasorda over Coach Jim Gilliam who happened to be Black. A decision Al was part of.

 All responded Blacks just didn't have the training. Based on the tenor of the times, Al was castigated. The public wanted his head and they got it!

  Shortly after the interview, despite the fact that under his stewardship the team had reached the World Series 4 times... 3 times under Tommy Lasorda. Al got the ax.

Many prominent Blacks who knew Al came to his support, among them, the great Don Newcomb, because he was kind-hearted, moral man who contributed far more to the team than one botched interview could ever take away.

 I suggest to today's Enlightened Executives support him for inclusion into the Hall-of Fame.

He earned this right.  Give it to him!

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Sports Scrapbook
Shelly Saltman has been in the sports world as an executive, TV producer, broadcaster and event creator for more than 50 years. Among his credentials are his work with Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel, the numerous network TV shows he produced and created, NBA/NHL management roles, co-creator of the Amgen Tour of California and as the first president of Fox Sports. He lives in Ventura County.