Editor’s Note: A version of this story was published in the Fall 2023 issue of Extant, a publication of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.Home of Roy Campanella
Location: 1528 Kerbaugh Street
Built: c. 1911
Born in Philadelphia in 1921, baseball legend Roy Campanella, the child of a white Italian immigrant father and an African American mother–a difficult lineage on the mean streets of Nicetown–grew up in this two-story brick rowhouse. But he earned respect on the diamond at Simon Gratz High School and, by age 16, in the Negro National League.
Campanella’s dream team, the Phillies, wasn’t recruiting Black players. Instead, “Campy” joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948, the year after Jackie Robinson, and became the majors’ first Black catcher. On a road trip to Philly, when the Bellevue Stratford Hotel turned the integrated Dodgers away, Campanella’s home welcomed them. Thus, this modest house on Kerbaugh Street can boast: “Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson slept here.”
After a 1958 car crash left Campy paralyzed, he stayed on with the Dodgers as a trainer. In 1991, he started a foundation supporting paraplegics. He died in 1993. A historic marker outside of Gratz High honors the eight-time All-Star and Hall of Famer. Adding his boyhood home to the city’s Register of Historic Places would be even more fitting recognition of this courageous Philadelphian.