Al Campanis' First Anniversary

Mark My Words

Given time, anyone can be redeemed.

Joe Biden, the Delaware senator who was forced to withdraw from the presidential race this year after being caught borrowing speeches, is already looking ahead to the 1992 race. Gary Hart can't be far behind.

Al Campanis, former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is slowly working his way back to grace. Campanis, you might remember, lost his job last year when he uttered some ill-advised remarks on ABC's "Nightline."

Campanis gave up a 40-year career in baseball when he said Blacks and other minorities lack "some of the necessities" to become major league managers and general managers. Campanis' remarks were untimely: baseball was about to mark the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's entry into baseball.

Ironically, Campanis is now working unofficially for the Commissioner's office, promoting minority employment in baseball. A year after his fall, he has begun the long ride on the road to redemption.


Because of his remarks, Campanis--a teammate of Robinson's on the old Brooklyn Dodgers--may have done more for baseball, and for minorities, than he did in his numerous jobs in baseball. Campanis' remarks shocked and outraged the sporting world. Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth vowed to do something about it and set up a commission to see to it that Blacks and other minorities got a fairer shake in baseball.

A year after Campanis' comments--and 41 years after Robinson broke the color barrier--baseball has made strides in that direction. Cookie Rojas, who is Cuban, is now managing the Kansas City Royals. Ueberroth's commission has encouraged Black and other minority players to take up coaching and managing positions in the minor leagues, a stepping stone to later employment in the majors.

Meanwhile, professional football remains in the dark ages. This year marked the first time a Black quarterback, Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins, competed in the Super Bowl. It also marked another year in which no Black held a positon as head coach or general manager in the NFL.

Professional sports have a bad track record when it comes to promoting Blacks and other minorities to coaching positions. But colleges barely make it to the starting line.

According to Northeastern's Center for Sport and Society, it is easier for a Black coach to find employment in the professional ranks than in colleges. No Division I school, for instance, has a Black head baseball coach.

The media, who have made such a fuss over lack of Blacks in professional sports, should not be so high and mighty. Quick, name a Black baseball announcer.

Al Campanis' comments will live in sports infamy. But as distressing as his remarks were, they have helped in the fight to desegregate baseball.

Strange, but it's a pity other sports don't have an Al Campanis who can bring so much right out of a wrong.