Today is a significant day in the history of Major League Baseball. On this date, 66 years ago, Jackie Robinson changed the game forever by breaking the color barrier. As a tribute to the former Brooklyn Dodgers legend, all MLB teams will have their players wear their own “42″ jersey. For those teams not taking the field today, they will have the opportunity to honor Robinson tomorrow by donning his number.
As a precursor to Jackie Robinson Day, the movie chronicling his life from 1945 to 1947, titled 42, hit the theaters on April 12, and has been a huge hit; it became the first baseball movie to make over $20 million in its opening weekend ($27.3 million, if we want to be exact). In all honesty, I was surprised it took this long for a movie to be made out of Robinson’s life and professional baseball career, but it’s better late than never.
I had the opportunity to watch the movie this weekend with my fiance and a few friends, and it was absolutely fantastic. Over the past month leading up to the release in theaters, I saw advertising for the film everywhere I looked. I was worried about seeing so many ads for it because I didn’t want the movie to fail living up to high expectations, but it certainly did.
As a Mets fan, I have the pleasure of walking up to Citi Field quite a few times each season, and I immediately think of Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers because of the outer design of the stadium, and the rotunda that bears his name. Like most avid baseball fans, I’m very aware of what Jackie did over his 10-year career on the field, but most importantly, what he did off the field during a turbulent time in American history.
The specifics of that struggle Jackie had to endure on a daily basis were never articulated to me, and it was interesting to watch it unfold in front of my own eyes. What he accomplished is glorified, as it should be, but with that glorification, we sometimes forget the pain he went through in order to change the game forever. That’s what 42 provided; an opportunity for us to get a deeper look into his life and how he went about his business while getting mistreated.
Although it was painful at times to watch him getting called names by opposing managers and neighbors alike, it was something that I felt like I needed to see in order to truly appreciate what he went through during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1947. When you see what he had to overcome just in order to get himself on the field, it makes his .297/.383/.427 line all the more impressive.
One of my favorite parts was when reporters were walking with him on his way to minor league camp in the spring of 1946. There were quite a few questions thrown his way, but one got his attention more than the others. When he was asked what he would do if opposing pitchers threw at his head, Robinson provided the best two-word answer that any true gamer could give:
Branch Rickey needed a ballplayer with Jackie’s personality to make what they did possible, and he thankfully was able to find him. The movie shed some more light on Rickey, how he went about choosing Jackie as the man for this task, and their relationship. Also, the relationship with his wife, Rachel Robinson, was highlighted nicely within the film, as we can see that behind every strong man, there is a strong woman as well. When he dealt with all the name-calling and jeering, she had to deal with it as well. Just imagine your significant other doing their job (and doing it well, might I add), and customers constantly berade him for superficial reasons. There were times when she was under fire just as much as her husband.
Chadwick Boseman did a spectacular job playing the role of Jackie Robinson, and I recommend this movie to anyone, whether you’re a baseball fan or not. Since it’s based on a true story, we all know how the movie turns out in the end, but it was worth seeing because I was able to get a closer look at the day-in and day-out grind he had to deal with, and who he leaned on when he needed to.
I’ve always been appreciative of what Robinson sacrificed to play the game of baseball, but watching this movie intensifies it for me. I wrote a small tribute for him on his birthday back on January 31, and again, it’s amazing to see what he was able to accomplish while facing so much adversity.
It’s a movie like this that inspires me to do what I love, and the success of it this past weekend shows that even though baseball may not be the most popular sport in America anymore, it will always be America’s favorite pastime.
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