In sports, uniform numbers are used to distinguish between individual players. But in 1947, uniform numbers weren’t necessary to distinguish Jackie Robinson from other major league baeball players.
Now, every year on April 15, every player on a major league roster dons the number 42, and it is the only number retired throughout America’s past-time.
On April 15, 1947, Robinson became the first African-American player in major league baseball, thus breaking the so-called ‘color line.’ The movie 42-The Jackie Robinson Story, a new release from director Brian Hegleland, focuses on Robinson’s ground-breaking struggles in post-World War II America.
The film-play is set in 1946 and 1947, when the Brooklyn Dodgers bought Robinson’s contract from their top minor-league affiliate, Montreal Royals. The concept of an African-American player competing in a major-league sport that had been lily white since its inception is met with resistance on every turn.
The movie stars Chad Boseman as Jack Roosevelt Robinson, Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn executive behind the bold move, and Nicole Beharie as Robinson’s wife, Rachel. Hegleland employs different and unique camera angles to represent baseball’s speed and grace, as well as to accurately portray Robinson’s seemingly limitless athletic prowess.
Ford’s character, Rickey, is a general manager/visionary who understands the importance of the untapped talent of African-American players and its relation to winning – and ultimately making money. Rickey also seems to understand that it is just a matter of time before African-American players assume their rightful places along white players.
But Rickey also realizes it will take a special type of personality to break the color barrier – someone ‘who has guts enough not to fight back’. Enter Robinson, a 26-year-old shortstop toiling for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League.
The drama surrounding the game of baseball has always played out well on the big screen, and ’42’ is certainly no different. It is a ‘must-see’ for sports fans, and a ‘highly recommend’ for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
While many have heard of the legend of Jackie Robinson, few know the specifics surrounding the man and his character. ‘Forty-two’ brings those aspects into focus.
Robinson was named the National League ‘Rookie of the Year’ in his inaugural campaign of 1947. But where the movie is lacking is its exploration of the other nine years of Robinson’s Hall-of-Fame career and his life after baseball.
Still, the 128 minutes it takes to tell the story of Robinson breaking into the major leagues seems to fly by.
Robinson won the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1949 and led the Dodgers to a World Series Championship in 1955. In his ten-year career, all with the Dodgers, Robinson posted a career batting average of .311 and stole 197 bases.
In 1962, he as elected to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Robinson was born to sharecroppers Jerry and Mallie Robinson in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919. After his father left, the Robinsons moved to Pasadena, California.
After earning varsity letters in baseball, basketball, football and track at UCLA in the late 1930s, Robinson was drafted into the United States Army at the beginning of World War II.