In a nod to nepotism, Topps offers us the final card of Jim Campanis’ career. Jim’s dad was Al, long the GM of the Dodgers. It was with his dad’s team that Jim’s career began a decade earlier. By now, though, it had been years since Jim played for LA or any of its franchises and he was still around, so maybe I’m just being cheap (as in shot). Jim’s last look at MLB as a player wasn’t much – just one hit in six at bats. But he had a pretty good year in Triple A, hitting .304 with 18 homers and 64 RBI’s. But Jim was 29 now, with – as he’d admit years later – “hands of stone” behind the plate. And that feature, coupled with an MLB average that aspired to be Mendoza-worthy, did not contribute too readily to a long career.
Jim Campanis grew up in Fullerton, California. He was a big kid and played linebacker as well as catcher in high school. He hit .420 his senior year. He pretty much grew up in Dodger training camps so when they signed him in ’62 upon graduating it just seemed like a natural evolutionary step. That year in D ball he hit .234 while actually having a fine defensive season. In ’63 he hit .302 in A ball with nine homers. In ’64 he hit .301 with 16 homers and 50 RBI’s and then .240 in a few games in Double A. He upped that to .255 in ’64 at the higher level with about the same amount of power. ’66 was all Triple A – except for his one at bat up top – and he did pretty well with a .284 average and 52 RBI’s. In ’67 Jim spent the whole year with the Dodgers backing up John Roseboro, but he got few at bats and even fewer hits. In ’68 Roseboro was traded to the Twins and there was some noise about Jim getting more work behind the plate. But LA picked up Tom Haller from the Giants and he and Jeff Torborg crowded Jim all the way back to Triple A where he hit .259 with 50 RBI’s in half a season. After that season his dad did something that was probably pretty tough: he traded his kid for future considerations to the new Kansas City Royals.
Jim split the first two years of the KC franchise between the Royals and the minors. He hit .244 in Triple A the first year and .288 in Double A the second, moving down a notch so Buck Martinez could get some seasoning at the higher level. Following the ’70 season he was traded to Pittsburgh with pitcher Bob Johnson and infielder Jackie Hernandez for Bruce Dal Canton, Jerry May, and Freddie Patek. It was pretty rare to see three of the exact same positions traded for themselves. For his run with the Pirates it was pretty much all minor leagues for Jim. In ’71 he hit .273 in Double A but fell to .206 in Triple A. In ’72 he had a .293/16/76 season at the lower level and in ’74, in what would be his last season as a player, a .277/18/76 year in Triple A. Jim finished with a .273 average with 125 homers in the minors, as well as the MLB numbers on the back of his card.
After playing Jim did lots of community relations work for the Dodgers and got rings for the ’81 and ’88 Series championships. He also managed a car dealership back in Fullerton for a number of years and has his own restaurant, Mini Gourmet, which is in Placentia, which is a letter away from being an inappropriate – or appropriate, depending on how New Age-y you are – town in which to have an eatery.
So despite Jim’s self-effacing comment it looks like he did have some good times on defense. Those two seasons from that first star bullet were in ’62 and ’65. Jim’s dad ended his LA career when he made his infamous comment about managing abilities by different ethnicities. Shortly thereafter both Jim’s and Bob Boone’s sons were in a race to see who would represent his family first as the third generation baseball player. Bret and Aaron Boone won that race.
Jim and Joe both played for the Royals as did the guy who comes next:
1. Campanis and Bill Singer (they shared a rookie card) ’67 to ’68 Dodgers;
2. Singer and Joe Lahoud ’74 to ’75 Angels.