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Dodgers Oust Al Campanis for Slurring Black Athletes : Views Led to Torrent of Criticism

April 08, 1987|MIKE KUPPER | Times Assistant Sports Editor

Al Campanis, the Dodgers' vice president in charge of player personnel, resigned under fire this morning in the wake of controversial statements he made about blacks in baseball on national television Monday night.

Dodgers' owner Peter O'Malley asked Campanis to resign.

Campanis, 70, had been in his job since 1968, a front-office employee since 1950 and a member of the organization since 1943.

Campanis, a guest of Ted Koppel on the ABC-TV's "Nightline" program Monday night, had said, among other things, that blacks lack the "necessities" to become field managers and top-level club executives. Ironically, the show was a tribute to Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier 40 years ago.

Dodger spokeswoman Mary Ann Hudson said: "Mr. O'Malley asked Mr. Campanis for his resignation. He felt that the comments that were made by Mr. Campanis on 'Nightline' were so far removed from the beliefs of the Dodger organization that he asked him to step down.

"Fred Claire will be assuming Mr. Campanis' duties indefinitely."

Claire is the team's executive vice president, second in command to O'Malley.

Manager Tom Lasorda, who once was reportedly in line to succeed Campanis when he retired, was in tears after hearing of the resignation before the Dodgers played Houston in the Astrodome.

"It's a sad day," Lasorda said.

". . . I feel sure Peter had to make the decision for the best of the organization. . . .

"He made one mistake and it cost him," Lasorda said of Campanis. "The good Lord forgave the people who crucified him. At least they could give him one other chance."

On Tuesday, O'Malley and Campanis had issued a joint apology for Campanis' remarks. Asked then if Campanis would be fired, O'Malley had said: "Absolutely not." (Story, Part III, Page 1.)

Campanis' statements produced a torrent of criticism in the black community. Henry Aaron, baseball's all-time home run hitter and a vice president with the Atlanta Braves, said Campanis' remarks are typical of the "backward" thinking prevalent in baseball today.

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley said Tuesday that he "does not accept" Campanis' beliefs.

On the program, Campanis had been asked by Koppel why there are no black managers, general managers or owners in the major leagues.

"The only thing I can say is that you have to pay your dues when you become a manager," Campanis said. "Generally, you have to go to the minor leagues. There's not very much pay involved, and some of the better-known black players have been able to get into other fields and make a pretty good living in that way."

Asked about racial prejudice in baseball today, Campanis said: "No, I don't believe it's prejudice. I truly believe that (blacks) may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager.

Campanis played alongside Jackie Robinson in 1946 when Robinson broke into organized baseball with the Montreal Royals, a Dodger farm team.

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