It’s been quite a year for Chris Taylor.
The Los Angeles Dodgers super-utility player had the best season of his eight-year MLB career. Not only was Taylor named to the National League All-Star Team for the first time, he was named the winner of the 16th annual Roy Campanella Prize on Saturday.
The award is presented to a Dodger player who embodies the spirit and leadership of Campanella, the Dodgers Hall of Fame catcher who broke his neck in a car accident in Glen Cove, NY on 28th 1958. The accident ended his playing career but he didn’t break his mind.
All Dodgers players and uniformed staff voted on the award, and the honor was presented to Taylor in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday night. Campanella’s daughter Joni Campanella Roan and grandson Cary Bell presented the award to Taylor.
The award was originally launched in 2006 and was awarded to former Dodgers’ shortstop Rafael Furcal in the first year. Since then, the award has been given to Russell Martin (2007), James Loney (2008), Juan Pierre (2009), Jamey Carroll (2010), Matt Kemp (2011), AJ Ellis (2012), Clayton Kershaw (2013-14), Zack Greinke (2015), Chase Utley (2016, 2018) and Justin Turner (2017, 2019-20).
Taylor is in his final year of contract with the Dodgers and becomes a free agent at the end of the season. The 31-year-old all-star beats .254 with 128 hits, 25 doubles, 20 home runs and a career high of 73 RBI with 90 runs. He also leads the team at 13 in stolen bases.
“He plays every at-bat like it’s his last,” said Taylor’s Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “The production doesn’t surprise me. He’s a ‘glue’ guy. He makes my job a lot easier and gives a lot of other guys – his teammates – runaways and other opportunities because of his versatility and selflessness.”
Don Drysdale, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax and Duke Snider are shown on the field before a 1990 Los Angeles Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ken Levine / Getty Images)
Campanella began his career in the Negro Leagues, where he quickly became one of the game’s best catchers. He joined the Dodgers in 1946 with Class B Nashau in the New England League, making that team the first integrated baseball team in the entire United States.
After being promoted to major leagues, Campanella became a three-time NL MVP with the Dodgers and won the coveted award in 1951, 1953 and 1955. Campanella was an eight-time All-Star and won the World Series with the Dodger in 1955.
Throughout his career, Campanella played in five World Series and held the record for most RBI in a single season at 142 for nine years before being surpassed by Tommy Davis in 1962.
After his tragic accident paralyzed him from the neck down and ended his baseball career, Campanella returned to an exhibition game between the Dodgers and Yankees on the 7th.
He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 and was one of the first three Dodgers to have their uniform numbers withdrawn alongside Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax. Campanella remained in the Dodgers’ Community Relations Department until his death on June 26, 1993 at the age of 71.