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Don Newcombe named Special Advisor to the Chairman
03/23/2009 5:30 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Dodgers today named longtime Dodger pitcher, front-office executive, and baseball pioneer Don Newcombe as Special Advisor to the Chairman.

The only man in baseball history to win the game's three major honors - Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and Cy Young Award - Newcombe played a key role in the country's civil rights movement, along with Dodger teammates Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.

"Don Newcombe's life experiences both on and off the field put him in a class by himself," said Frank McCourt, the Dodgers' Owner and Chairman. "His dedication to the Dodger organization for nearly half a century provides him with a unique perspective, and we are fortunate to be able to seek his counsel on any number of issues."

Newcombe also founded baseball's first community affairs department in 1970, and established baseball's first community relations department, a practice subsequently followed by the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball.

"It's an honor to be given this position and I will always do whatever it takes to make the Dodgers a better organization," said Newcombe, who joins Tommy Lasorda and Dr. Frank Jobe as the club's only three Special Advisors to the Chairman. "I have a great deal of respect for Tommy and Dr. Jobe, two of the best ever in their respective fields, and I look forward to joining them to help Mr. McCourt in any way possible."

When Newcombe signed with the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues in 1945, Dodger President Branch Rickey was scouting players there. Breaking the color barrier in baseball, Rickey signed Robinson, Campanella, and Newcombe.

In 1946, the trio joined the Dodgers' system, with Robinson starting at Triple-A Montreal. When Rickey attempted to send Newcombe and Campanella to the Dodgers' Danville affiliate in the Three-I League, the league threatened to shut down if the players arrived. The only other affiliate that would take them was in the New England League, where Nashua General Manager Buzzie Bavasi's only question was whether they could play. He and the world would soon find out.

Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and was named the National League Rookie of the Year. In 1948, Campanella came up, and in May, 1949, Newcombe arrived and won Rookie of the Year honors as well.

Newcombe won the Major League Baseball Cy Young Award in 1956 (at that time, only one award was bestowed) and was the National League's Most Valuable Player that year as well.

In the eight seasons starting 1949 through 1956, the Dodgers played in five World Series and narrowly missed pennants in 1950 and 1951. They won their first World Championship in 1955.

While the Dodgers were winners on the field, the trio faced such challenges off the field as death threats, isolation, degradation, and insults from fans, opponents, and even some teammates. Various hotels and restaurants refused to serve them.

Despite such conditions, Newcombe, during his 10-year career, was 149-90 with 1,129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA, with 136 complete games and 24 shutouts. Also a dangerous hitter, Newcombe hit seven home runs in one season and overall batted .271 with 15 home runs, 108 RBI, 238 hits, three doubles, 94 runs scored, and eight stolen bases.

In 1968, Newcombe had a fateful meeting with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just 28 days before Dr. King's assassination. Concluding a tour of speech-making, protest marches, and peaceful demonstrations, King had dinner at Newcombe's home in Los Angeles before returning to Atlanta.

Newcombe recalls that King said, "Don, you'll never know how easy you and Jackie and (Larry) Doby and Campy (Roy Campanella) made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field."

"Imagine, here is Martin getting beaten with billyclubs, bitten by dogs, and thrown in jail, and he says we made his job easier," Newcombe said.

Newcombe joined the Dodger front office in 1970 and has devoted countless hours to community service over the last five decades. Among his contributions, he has helped numerous others in their battles against substance abuse.

"What I have done after my baseball career - being able to help people with their lives and getting their lives back on track so they become productive human beings again - that means more to me than all the things I did in baseball," Newcombe said.

Newcombe is the lone survivor of the historic trio. Robinson died in 1972, just 10 days after the Dodgers paid tribute to him on the 25th Anniversary of his debut. Campanella, who outlived the doctors who treated him after an automobile accident left him paralyzed in January 1958, passed away in 1993.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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