Roy Campanella was understandably excited about playing in Los Angeles.

After all, even though the Dodgers’ move to California for the 1958 season was destined to leave behind untold thousands of heartbroken fans in Brooklyn, the new climes would offer Campy and his teammates certain advantages.

The plum weather, for starters.

And a whole new fanbase, with a chance for Dodger Blue to paint the west coast.

And an instant, built-in rivalry with plenty of history, thanks to the Giants’ simultaneous move to San Francisco.

And, for Campy, the chance to simply get back on the field, doing what he loved to do — play baseball!

See, the 1951, 1953, and 1955 National League MVP had seen his playing time shrink to 103 games and 380 plate appearances in 1957 as the rigors of catching continued to weigh on his 35-year-old body.

His final game in Brooklyn had come on September 24, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, when he went hitless in two at-bats. Even then, manager Walter Alston lifted Campanella for Joe Pignatano in the fifth inning in the Dodgers last game at Ebbets Field.

Campy made two more appearances as the Bums went on the road to end the season, again going o-fer in two plate appearances, this time over two games against the Phillies in Philadelphia.

His last hit had come at home on September 22, and his last home run was way back on August 17, when he when 4-for-4 with two RBI in a 7-3 loss to the Bucs.

As for the Dodgers, they were going nowhere fast (well, except for to L.A.) by late September, finishing at 84-70 and in third place in the National League behind the Milwaukee Braves and St. Louis Cardinals.

So there was reason for optimism, at least among some of the Dodgers, that a move to sunnier shores offered a chance for better days ahead — new fans, new money, a new stadium (at least eventually).

And, more simply, for Campy and other veterans, a winter to rest and heal up for the rigors of another season, with new opportunities awaiting on the horizon of Spring Training.

But then, on January 29, 1958, all those hopes came crashing down when Campanella crashed his car into a telephone pole on his way home from the Harlem liquor store he owned.

Paralyzed at the scene, Campy was touch-and-go through his initial surgery, and, when he pulled through, the long wait began — would the Dodgers legend ever walk again? And, as a hope against hope, would Campy ever take the field again?

By the spring of 1958, the Dodgers were gone, busy building their new legacy, while their future Hall of Famer remained immobile.

With Campy out of the majors for the time being, he was also off the cardboard roster — for the first time since 1948 (depending on how you define his “exhibits”), there were no Roy Campanella baseball cards.

A year after his accident, it was clear Campy wouldn’t be coming back to the diamond as a player anytime soon, but he was ready to head west to join his Dodgers teammates to offer coaching and encouragement.

With more distance from his accident and with time helping to clarify the future, Topps decided to bring Campanella into the cardboard fold one last time, celebrating his career and ongoing fight to regain however much of his previous life he could.

“Symbol of Courage” in the 1959 Topps set became an instant collector favorite, even if it was unlike anything else in the set:

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Topps teamed up with National League president Warren Giles to complete the tribute on the card back:

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Over the years, and after untold hours of physical therapy, Campy eventually regained limited use of his arms and hands. He was indeed a symbol of courage and an endless source of hope for anyone facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

And, while he never did play the game he loved again, Roy Campanella’s baseball legacy only grew stronger over the decades preceding his death in 1993, and since.

His unconventional career-capper baseball card has remained in lock-step with the man himself, building a quiet but looming hobby legacy that causes even casual passersby to stop and gaze in wonderment any time “Symbol of Courage” makes an appearance.

1959 Topps #27 Andy Pafko

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1959 Topps #45 Andy Carey

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1959 Topps #290 Wes Covington

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1959 Topps Set-Break #464 Mays' Catch Makes VG-VGEX

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