Showing posts with label Dave Campbell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dave Campbell. Show all posts

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dave Campbell greatly impacted by Michigan baseball coach Lund

Modern baseball fans grew up with Dave Campbell as a mainstay on ESPN’s baseball broadcasts, but a deeper look into the history of this eight-year major league veteran reveals his roots firmly entrenched in the University of Michigan’s baseball program.

1962 Michigan Baseball Team
 Campbell was the first baseman on Michigan’s 1962 National Championship team, earning All-Tournament honors in the process. Their club was guided by Don Lund, who earned nine varsity letters in baseball, basketball and football at Michigan before embarking on a seven-year stay in the big leagues. Lund passed away last week at the age of 90 in Ann Arbor, leaving Campbell with nothing but positive memories of his mentor.

“I think the one word that people are going to use about him is respect,” the 71-year-old Campbell said from his home in Idaho. “He didn’t play, 'Big Man on Campus,’ or anything like that. He was a teacher first and foremost. He had great leadership abilities and great integrity. He was one of those people you wanted to play well for because you respected or liked him as a human being.”

Campbell was familiar with Lund before he arrived at Michigan due to his father Robert, who was a letterman there in the late 1930's in two sports, baseball and football. He knew early on that if given the opportunity, he would follow in his father’s legacy in Ann Arbor.

Dave Campbell
“I was aware of Don’s reputation before I ever got to Michigan,” he said. “I grew up in Lansing and my dad played football and baseball in Michigan. All I heard about was, 'Go Blue,’ even though I was living in Spartan-land. I don’t think there was ever any doubt that if I could go to Michigan that I was going to go there.”

He entered Michigan’s baseball program as a walk-on at a time when freshmen weren’t allowed in varsity competition, and available scholarships were scarce.

“Don was aware of me, as he had seen me play in a couple of Hearst All-Star games,” he said. “I basically walked-on and freshmen weren’t eligible then. He didn’t have much to do with me going there, but certainly had a great influence on me while I was there.”

Campbell spent one season under Lund’s watchful eye, and took away an important baseball lesson in playing the game the right way.

“I just think that he taught us the fundamentals,” Campbell said. “He would say to us, 'Go out and do the fundamentals, do your own job. If it’s your day and you’re good enough, the results will be good—don’t be afraid to succeed.’”

This inner confidence that Lund help to foster within the Michigan team was most evident during their final game, a 5-4 victory in 15 innings against heavily favored Santa Clara for the National Championship.

“The most telling thing about that National Championship game was that we played 15 innings against Santa Clara and we were the visitors,” he said. “From the bottom of the 9th on, we were facing the guillotine; if we gave up one run, we lost. I don’t even think we thought about failure.”


Lund left Michigan after the 1962 season to work as the director of the Detroit Tigers minor league system. Campbell graduated from Michigan in 1964, and quickly reunited with his former coach when was signed by Detroit scout Ed Katalinas.

“He was my farm director all the way up until I was traded to the Padres in 1970,” he said. “There were some frustrating times there too. There were a couple times I was struggling to get to the major leagues, and then there were a couple of times I got demoted. I told Don I didn’t think it was fair. He said to me, 'I must have missed that chapter in the book where it says life was always fair.’”

Campbell saw his former coach about a half-dozen times in the last ten years at various reunions for the 1962 team. During that time, Lund, who once wore the physique of a strapping football player, was limited to the use of a walker, and later on, a wheelchair. Despite Lund not being able to get around with the grace that he once used to dodge tacklers and chase down fly balls, he displayed the same character that he tried to instill players at Michigan.

“His mind was so sharp, but his body betrayed him,” Campbell said. “He loved to compete. The last 15 years of his life, he would have loved to be out on the golf course playing with his buddies, telling stories, but you never heard him complain.”

* - This was originally published on Examiner.com on December 14, 2013. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Honoring the tremendous character of Don Lund

I made my first contact with Don Lund via telephone late in 2007 when I started my research to find out what the experience was for the major league players who debuted as the color line was slowly eroding.

He shared his stories of being signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers only a few weeks before Jackie Robinson, and how both of them were offered positions on the major league club on the same day in 1947. We talked about his travels through a variety of major league organization, and his long standing career at the University of Michigan as a three-sport athlete, coach, and later assistant athletic director.

Don Lund with the author in 2008
His bird's eye view at Michigan of the budding talents of Bill Freehan, Barry Larkin, and Jim Abbott all rolled off his tongue as he beamed with pride describing his favorite stories of each player. He glowingly spoke about his 1962 National Championship team and the influence that Ray Fisher had on his career. He had energy to continue telling stories, not about himself, but the many people he met along the way. Our conversations routinely lasted an hour or more.

Earlier this week, I sadly received the news that Lund passed away last week at the age of 90 at an assisted living facility in Ann Arbor. The mention of his death immediately brought back memories of our 2008 meeting in New Jersey.

Knowing that he would be coming to the local area for what was most likely to be the final Brooklyn Dodgers reunion, we made plans to meet at the show and spend some time together. My only picture of Lund was what was on his baseball cards, so it was difficult for me to imagine what I was going to encounter. Time works differently on our baseball heroes, and Lund was 55 years removed from the portrait on his 1953 Topps card.

I walked up to the room, and there was Lund, holding onto a walker, partially stooped forward, smiling as we finally made our acquaintance in person. It was hard for me to envision him as the square shouldered running back that garnered a first-round draft choice from the Chicago Bears, but his grip was still incredibly firm as he reached out to shake my hand.

Within minutes of our meeting, Don made me feel like we were old pals from yesteryear. He introduced me to all of his old teammates as his friend. I watched as he signed away at all of the items the promoters put in front of him, and then as he happily met with the many fans that traveled from far and near to spend some precious moments with the living members of New York's bygone team.

As the signing finished, I went with Don to pick up his check from the promoters, as he had a few hours left before his ride to the airport. He never once scoffed at the amount, even though the quantity of items he signed brought the total to maybe $1-$2 per signature. The money wasn't his motivation for being there; it was to see teammates that he hadn't seen in some fifty years—guys like Howie Schultz, Lee Pfund, Mike Sandlock, Ralph Branca, and Clyde King, all teammates when he made his debut in 1945.

We sat around with Schultz and a few others in the hotel lobby, talking baseball while we shared some refreshments. As I went to pay, he steadfastly refused to let me do so, insisting that I was his guest for the day. As I wished him a safe trip home, he extended a handshake and a hug, wishing me well in my endeavors.

The way Don treated me that was was the embodiment of his spirit; a classy gentleman who went out of his way to treat others well.

I kept in touch with him on the phone and in the mail, exchanging correspondence once or twice a year. He always was willing to talk baseball, and in between the lines, sprinkle a few guiding thoughts for life's travels. We last spoke shortly after he moved to an assisted living facility in Glacier Hills, and even as recently as a month prior to his passing, he still had hope that he would be up and walking again, able to hit fungoes to the Michigan baseball team.

His had a profound effect on Michigan athletics, not only for their program, but for the many players he reached. Dave Campbell, who was the first baseman on Michigan's 1962 National Championship team, (who later played eight seasons in the majors, and spent two decades as a baseball analyst on ESPN) called Lund in the wake of his passing, a man of, "great leadership ... and great integrity," and was one who, "had a great influence on me while I was there."

I wish I had the opportunity to have met Lund earlier than I did, or even to have been one of his players, because in the short time we interacted, I could see how his tremendous character helped to shape the lives of so many young men.