Camilli combined graceful fielding with long ball power. When Larry McPhail assumed command of the decrepit Dodgers in 1938, Camilli was the first player he sought. A steady, low-key leader, Camilli became the Dodger captain, a counterbalance to excitable manager Leo Durocher. A former boxer whose brother had died in the ring fighting World Heavyweight Champion Max Baer, Camilli quelled clubhouse clashes with a quiet word and meaningful look. He also discouraged team veterans from hazing Dodger rookies Pee Wee Reese and Pete Reiser.
Camilli hit at least 23 HR eight straight seasons. He was named MVP in 1941 after leading Brooklyn to the pennant with league highs of 34 HR and 120 RBI. When Brooklyn traded him to the rival Giants in 1943, Camilli refused to report. His son Doug caught for the Dodgers and Senators in the 1960s.