“42” = 8
The movie was predictable. Even the most uninformed in the annals of baseball have heard of Jackie Robinson and his famous milestone of breaking the color barrier into the Major Leagues in 1947. We all knew how the story would begin and end.
But that’s not what was important. Most bio epics, from stories from Jesus to famous politicians, have known beginnings and endings. This story rehashed the old wounds of racial discrimination of merely 65 years ago, when black celebrities, in sports or entertainment, were relegated to separate bathrooms, water fountains and lodgings…still considered second-class citizens no matter when they went, no matter their wealth.
What the movie brought out was the horrid humiliations that Robinson was forced to endure, especially by fellow ball players, few of whom had the courage to come to his side, as did Pee Wee Reese. While Branch Rickey was credited with bringing Robinson into the majors, we didn’t really know how much he played a part in how the young star from the Negro Leagues would handle the firestorm emotionally. This piqued in a poignant scene, as Rickey is warning Robinson of what’s to come if he brings him into the Brooklyn Dodger team. Robinson alludes to having the courage to fight, at which time Rickey counters, “What’s more important, I want a player who has the guts not to fight back.”
Harrison Ford plays an Oscar-worthy portrayal of Branch Rickey, while Chadwick Boseman does an excellent job of playing Jackie Robinson. Also worthy of mention is Nicole Beharie, who played an essential role as Jackie’s wife, Rachel.
I was a baseball fan in 1947 and well remember the hoopla over a black man integrating major league baseball. It seemed strange, indeed. But I never realized what he had to suffer as he blazed the trail for the black ballplayers that followed; Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, Don Newcombe and Roy Campenella…and now, thousands more.
Jackie Robinson overcame hard adversity and discrimination, but his play on the field was all the answer he needed, as he posted a lifetime average higher than most of his teammates, (.311) and won the Most Valuable Player award in the entire league in 1949. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on first ballot in 1962, five years after his retirement.
Today, no one pays any attention to color or ethnicity, only batting averages and double plays. Following baseball’s integration, other teams sports followed suit, including football and basketball.
It is good that his legacy has been honored by retiring his number “42” from baseball, on all teams, the only number so chosen. In the wake of the recent Boston massacre, did anyone notice that the Red Sox, and other Major League Teams, were all wearing the number “42” on their uniforms?
“42” is a very good movie. It’s also a good learning experience for people too young to remember. It probably won’t win any Oscars, but it’s rated an 8 nonetheless.
Below, Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey: