Tom Lasorda, his voice rising with emotion, said Al Campanis' life should not be measured by racial remarks he made in a television interview.
Lasorda, the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers manager, eulogized Campanis as an "architect and innovator in baseball, who loved to teach people about the game.""It's a sad, sad time when this man has to leave this world of ours with a reputation that wasn't deserved. He never, never judged a ballplayer by his color and everyone knows it. He always talked about whether he could play or not, not whether he was black, white or what," Lasorda told a gathering of some 300 on Friday.
Campanis, nicknamed Chief, "did more for Latin and black players than anybody in baseball," Lasorda added.
Campanis was the Dodgers' general manager until he said on ABC's "Nightline" that blacks lacked "the necessities" to be baseball managers and executives. The Dodgers fired him shortly after that 1987 interview.
Campanis died Sunday of coronary artery disease at his Fullerton home. He was 81.
Those at the funeral, the majority of whom seemed to be baseball people Campanis had befriended over a long career, included former general manager Fred Claire and former manager Bill Russell, who were fired by the Dodgers the day Campanis died. Claire and Russell sat together.
New manager Glenn Hoffman also was at the funeral.
Lasorda was named the interim GM to replace Claire.
Pallbearers included Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, longtime major league manager Sparky Anderson and Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.
Koufax, originally signed to a Dodgers contract by Campanis, agreed that Campanis' remarks during the "Nightline" interview should not be what he's remembered for.
"I knew him since 1954; we spent a lot of years together," Koufax said outside the small funeral home where services were held. "He definitely should not be judged on those (comments). You judge a person by his deeds, by the way he lived."
Campanis once was a roommate of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier. Campanis later signed such black players as Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and Tommy Davis.
That was not, however, enough to offset the damage from his comments on the eve of the baseball season 11 years ago.
Campanis startled host Ted Koppel with his response to questions about continued prejudice in baseball. Campanis said blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager."
Later in the interview, Campanis suggested blacks were not good swimmers because they "don't have the buoyancy."
Campanis apologized the next day, but he soon was fired by the Dodgers and replaced by Claire.