Wareham Gatemen to Honor Local Baseball Player Who Broke Color Barrier
This Sunday, the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League tip their caps to a momentous Cape Verdean baseball player you never heard of, but who helped break the color barrier.
This is also an inspiring story about Joe Campinha, who never got his acclaim when he was alive, and a galvanizing community that's about to set right the injustices of the past. As Jackie Robinson so famously broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Campinha was one of those who broke it in the minor leagues.
Karl Sabourin, a member of the board of directors of the Wareham Gatemen, is also the author of an impactful story that appeared on Wicked Local Wareham that helped shed light on Campinha's life and career. This must-read column journals the amazing athletic accomplishments of quite possibly the very first professional baseball player of Cape Verdean decent, in a time when it was difficult for Cape Verdeans to fit in to society because they were "considered too light to be Black and too dark to be white," according to Campinha's daughter, Dr. Josepha Campinha-Bacote.
In fact, Campinha was forced to change his name to "Campini" in order to better fit in with his contemporaries on the field. The catcher is credited with playing one season in the Negro Leagues and two in the minors before retiring at the end of the 1950 season.
The historic observance by the Gatemen is the concerted effort of Sabourin, Gatemen President Tom Gay, General Manager Andrew Lang, Glen Hannington and Gwen Miceli, who worked with family members to see to it that what Campinha and other players of color endured is not lost to time immemorial.
"The greatest joy was working with the others in helping put the bits and pieces together for the family, and for the love of the game of baseball," Sabourin said. "The entire Campini-Campinha family, revered and admired by all, has continually contributed to the well-being of the community. What we have planned for them on Sunday before the Gatemen-Cotuit Kettleers game will be both historic and significant."
From a story fused in segregation and discrimination, it's powerful and symbolic that it's ending has now changed by correcting the wrongs and doing what's required from us all: making the right decision.
"Joe Campini worked very hard, but he never got the credit," Sabourin said.
That all changes on Sunday.