Roy Campanella was one of baseball’s great catchers. He played for the Washington/Baltimore Elite Giants in the Negro Leagues between 1937 and 1945 before moving into the Brooklyn Dodgers’ minor league system in 1946 as the team started preparing to break the color barrier with Jackie Robinson. Campanella went on to play for the dodgers between 1948 and 1957 before a car crash paralyzed him in January 1958.
In Major League Baseball, Campanella was an 8x All-Star, a World Series champion, and 3x NL MVP. He finished his career with a .283 batting average, 1401 hits, 260 home runs, and 1017 runs batted in. Voters eventually elected Campanella to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Unfortunately, so few playing era cards exist for him. The PSA Roy Campanella Master Set only has 29 cards, though passionate collectors will say there are more likely around 35 in-era Campy baseball cards. However, when you start looking through them, you’ll see that six of the collectible Roy Campanella cards from his playing days used the same picture of him ripping off his mask to track down a pop-fly; so I thought I’d share them, and a few details about the cards and sets.
1951 Bowman #31 Roy Campanella
Most collectors consider the 1949 Bowman Roy Campanella to be his rookie card, but the 1951 Bowman card is undoubtedly part of a more significant set. This card is a work of art.
1951 Wheaties #K Roy Campanella Premium Photos
No one is certain if these 5’’x7″ photos were ever issued or just a test since they are the same photos that Wheaties would use on their cards in 1952. The images were thought to be taken from team-issued pictures, which makes a lot of sense since the image was re-used on so many cards, and because of the postcard version of the photo that I’ll share next.
Roy Campanella Real-Photo Postcard
Robert Edward Auctions sold this Campanella postcard in the fall of 2014 for $600. The image probably isn’t a true copy of the original photograph, as the Stahl-Meyer shared below shows part of the upper deck.
1952 Berk Ross Roy Campanella
The sepia-colored Berk Ross Campanella card doesn’t have the same visual pop as the 1951 Bowman but sells for similar prices. If you’re curious, I have an entry for the Berk Ross set on the Unopened Archive.
1952 Wheaties Roy Campanella Action
A portrait and action Campanella card appeared on the back of cereal boxes. This time, the image of Campanella was depicted as a blue-line drawing on an orange background.
1953 Stahl-Meyer Roy Campanella
Depending on who you ask, the 1953 Stahl-Meyer or 1954 Wilson Franks are Campanella’s toughest card. But the Stahl-Meyer shares the same in-action picture as the other collectibles on this list. The Stahl-Meyer set is one of the rarest regional issues since they only came out in the New York area in packages of Stahl-Meyer Franks; PSA has only graded 24 Campanella examples.
The same image was used on a few post-playing career cards of Campanella, too; my favorite is the 1967 Venezuela Retirado #180.
Joe Orlando included Campanella in his list of the Top-12 Catchers of All Time and wrote that he was one of the likable baseball players. So it’s unfortunate for us collectors that he had limited time in the big leagues. And while so many of his cards shared a similar image, at least they were represented in very different ways. Any would make an excellent addition to a post-war baseball card collection; happy collecting!