09/23/2006 9:44 PM ET
Furcal wins first Campanella Award
Shortstop voted "Most Inspirational Dodger" by his teammates
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today that shortstop Rafael Furcal was named the inaugural winner of the Roy Campanella Award, which is given to the Dodgers player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher. The award, which was voted upon by Dodgers uniform personnel, will be presented to Furcal by Campanella's daughter, Joni Campanella during a pregame ceremony prior to tomorrow's game.
In his first season with the Dodgers, Furcal has batted .299 with a career-high-tying 15 home runs and 63 RBIs, the most by a Dodgers leadoff hitter since 1979. He ranks among the National League leaders in multihit games (60, T-2nd), hits (187, T-4th), runs (108, T-9th), stolen bases (35, 9th), batting average with runners in scoring position (.358, 7th), games (152, T-3rd) and at-bats (625, 3rd).
Following offseason knee surgery, Furcal battled several injuries during the month of April but refused to go on the disabled list. Since May 1, the Dominican Republic native has batted .318 with 15 homers, 61 RBIs and 29 stolen bases. His 187 hits are the most by a first-year Dodger since Johnny Frederick notched 206 for Brooklyn in 1929.
Furcal has also made his presence known in the Los Angeles community, taking time to visit youngsters in the Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children's Hospital Los Angeles in August.
Campanella was a three-time National League Most Valuable Player (1951, 1953, 1955), eight-time All-Star and a member of the 1955 World Championship team. He played in five World Series and his 142 RBIs in 1953 set a franchise record, since surpassed by Tommy Davis (153 in 1962). In 1,215 career games during a 10-year career, all with the Dodgers, he batted .276 with 242 home runs and 856 RBIs.
He began his career in the Negro Leagues, establishing himself as one of the top catchers in the league before joining the Dodgers organization in 1946. Campanella played for Class B Nashua of the New England League, making that club the first integrated affiliated baseball team in the United States.
On Jan. 29, 1958, just as the Dodgers were making final preparations for their move to Los Angeles, Campanella was involved in a tragic car accident that paralyzed him from the neck down, marking the end of his playing career. On May 7, 1959, a Major League record-setting 93,103 fans filled the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on "Roy Campanella Night" for an exhibition game between the Dodgers and Yankees.
He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, and was among the first three Dodgers to have their uniform numbers retired, alongside Robinson and Sandy Koufax. Campanella remained active in the Dodgers' Community Relations Department until his passing on June 26, 1993, at the age of 71.