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.
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.
“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.”