The $27.3 million taken in by the Jackie Robinson bio-movie, “42,” is not only the best first weekend cash grab by a baseball movie in years, it illustrates how powerful the legend and legacy of the first African American to play Major League baseball still is 66 years after he initially set foot on what was an all-white baseball field and made civil rights and sports history.
The movie, which stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodger boss Branch Rickey, unblinkingly shows the trials and tribulations Robinson had to battle against during that defining season in 1947.
Today, it’s hard to imagine what Robinson had to endure given how far we’ve come as a people and a nation: Being called the “N” word and other racial epithets, opposing players going out of their way to try and injure him, his own “teammates” pretending he didn’t exist or “outraged” they had to share a locker room with a (bleep), unable to sleep in the same hotel as the other Dodger players because of his color, not to mention the vitriol heaped upon him by baseball fans and sports journalists mortified at what “America’s Pastime” had become by his mere presence.
But Robinson persevered despite having a temper and being known as someone who didn’t always turn the other cheek and wasn’t afraid to be confrontational, especially as an Army officer who was court-martialed–and acquitted– for not compromising his dignity as a man. Yet, he turned that cheek and kept his temper in check for his first two seasons in the Major’s at the urging of Rickey.
Those first two hellacious years did little to dampen the brilliance of Robinson’s play on the field.
A National League Rookie-of-the-Year, MVP honoree, six time All-Star and Hall-of-Famer, Robinson finished his career as a .300 hitter and was a feared and daring base runner who, during one game, stole home! Reportedly, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once told another Black baseball pioneer, Dodger Pitcher Don Newcombe that Robinson and other Black baseball players who flooded Major League Baseball after 1947, inspired the modern day Civil Rights Movement.
The courage Robinson showed in not retaliating against the racism he endured–which is unflinchingly dramatized in the movie–showed King and other civil rights warriors that change through non-violence was possible; that “turning the other cheek” was (and still is) a powerful weapon in the fight for equality.
If you haven’t seen the movie and have children, we urge you to take them to see this well-done and inspiring film. It is a celebration of the endurance and determination of the human spirit in the face of bigotry and ignorance.
The film can also serve as a history lesson your children will appreciate and be inspired by. The movie may even spark in them an appreciation and desire to play a game Black Americans once dominated, but now seem uninterested in given the dominance of basketball, video games and other recreational and entertainment diversions.
The movie “42” deserves our support also as a community whose history and historic figures–when portrayed on celluloid–are often reduced to stereotypical charactertures that have no connection to the reality we have–and continue–to endure.
Robinson’s legacy and historic feat deserves nothing less than our support, respect and reverence.