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“Roy Campanella Night” Draws Record Crowd of 92,103!
My recent post about Roy Campanella got me thinking about another historic night in Dodger history. Fifty-eight years ago this month, May 7, 1959, a record crowd of 92,103 packed into Los Angeles Coliseum to see an exhibition game played between the Dodgers and the Yankees. The occasion was a benefit game played to honor the Dodgers’ great catcher, Roy Campanella. The eight-time Brooklyn Dodger All-Star was only 36 when a car crash on Jan. 28, 1958 – just days before he was scheduled to leave for Spring Training – left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
The proceeds from the game went to help defray medical costs of Roy’s rehabilitation. A total of $60,000 ($551,000 in today’s money) was raised for the disabled Dodger star. For the record crowd – the largest documented gathering for a baseball game to that point in time — the game was a reminder of the great Dodgers and Yankees battles of the 1940s and 1950s that often featured Campanella behind the plate.
Earlier in the day, the Dodgers had played a day game against the Giants at Seals Stadium. They then took a short flight home for the exhibition night game against the Yankees, won by the visitors 6-2. The next morning, May 8th, the Dodgers flew back to San Francisco for a night game against the Giants.
One of our readers, John Quinlan, who was 10-years old at the time, attended the game with his father. He still has vivid memories from that night, which he describes as “one of the greatest experiences of my life. The solemn moment is etched in my memory bank forever.”
John provided a first-hand account from this emotional night, recalling that at some point in the game — he’s not sure which inning — the lights were turned off and “everyone lit a match, lighter, or flashlight in honor of Campy.” That must have been quite a scene.
The first-base coach, Greg Mulleavy, was a friend of John’s grandfather, so John was able to collect quite a few autographs that night, including Walter Alston, Charlie Dressen, Johnny Blanchard, “Marvelous Marv” Thorneberry, Whitey Ford, and a number of local Los Angeles celebrities. John added: “Greg Mulleavy did a lot for me between 1958-’61. I was able to visit the clubhouse and meet the players. Greg always gave me balls out of the BP bags.”
The 93,103 fans in attendance (with an estimated 15,000 turned away) stood as baseball’s record for many years. It even outgrew the Dodgers’ 1959 World Series home games (3, 4 and 5) which drew more than 92,000 fans for each game, but never reached the level of “Roy Campanella” night.
Forty-nine years later, on March 29, 2008, another exhibition game at the Coliseum between the World Series champion Red Sox and the Dodgers drew an announced crowd of 115,300, the first documented baseball game to top the 100,000 mark in attendance.
Roy Campanella was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, and spent more than a decade working in the Dodgers’ community relations department. He passed away on June 26, 1993.
Photo Credits: All from Google search
Information: Excerpts edited from article on “Roy Campanella Night”: http://baseballhall.org/discover/inside-pitch/record-crowd-for-campanella-night; and from the Roy Campanella Wikipedia page.