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Al Campanis dies of heart disease

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Al Campanis, who spent a half-century building championship teams for the Dodgers only to see his career unravel on national TV for saying blacks lacked "the necessities" to be baseball managers and executives, has died. He was 81.

Campanis died Sunday of coronary artery disease at his Fullerton home, Orange County Supervising Deputy Coroner Rick McAnally said. He had diabetes and nearly died of pneumonia last year.The former Dodgers general manager who played in the minors with Jackie Robinson helped build teams that won four National League pennants and the 1981 World Series.

"He was just a great baseball man who loved the game, who obviously dedicated his life to the game," Dodgers manager Bill Russell said Sunday.

But Campanis was fired shortly after a 1987 interview on ABC's "Nightline," an appearance that prompted a nationwide debate on race and sport.

Campanis signed such black players as Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and Tommy Davis. However, that was not 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."

Koppel gave Campanis a second chance to rephrase his thoughts, but Campanis made no retraction. In the same interview, Campanis suggested blacks were not good swimmers because they "don't have the buoyancy."