Although I love my work, I regret working 12 hours a day when a film like "42" comes out. Itching harder than a hound with fleas since its release, I finally got the opportunity to see it this weekend. In my eyes, it had the opportunity to be the greatest baseball film ever made; it certainly is the best baseball story ever told.
"42" is beautifully shot. Rich with color, tremendous acting and amazing picturesque graphics showcasing the time period's historic ballparks, "42" is a must-see movie for all sports fans. But while the movie was great, I learned a lot amazing facts about Jackie Robinson I never otherwise would have known. Below are just a few facts about one of the greatest — and fearless — leaders in American sports history.
Jackie Robinson was the first African-American baseball player to break the color barrier… in the modern era. Moses Fleetwood Walker was actually the first African-American baseball player credited with playing pro baseball back in 1889 with the Toledo Blue Stockings.
Robinson attended John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif., where he made the Pomona Annual Baseball Tournament All-Star Team that included future Baseball Hall of Famers Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox and Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians. Jackie was also a junior tennis champion.
'Jack' made his debut with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947 after playing one year of ball with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' minor league international affiliate. Now, every year on April 15, Major League Baseball celebrates 'Jackie Robinson Day,' where every player wears the number 42 in his honor. It is the only time fans see the number on the field, as it is the only number retired by every professional baseball team.
Robinson won baseball's first ever Rookie Of The Year award in 1947 at the age of 28, batting .297/12/48 with 29 stolen bases. He did this while only striking out 36 times during an accumulation of a whopping total of 701 at-bats. He led the Dodgers to the pennant where they lost to the Yankees in the World Series.
Three years into the league, 1949 was a special year for Jackie. He led the National League in stolen bases and batting average, was named to his first All-Star Game, helped the Dodgers win the pennant by one game, and was named the league's Most Valuable Player — the first ever for an African-American. He batted a ridiculous .342 that season.
Few people understand the true, raw athleticism that was Jackie Robinson. He was the first athlete in UCLA athletics history to earn letters in the four major sports: football, basketball, baseball and track. He led the conference in scoring twice in basketball and was an NCAA champion in the broad jump (25 feet, 6.5 inches). And oh ya, he was an All-American in football.
Due to financial troubles, Jackie was forced to leave college early and was soon drafted into the U.S. Army where he served two years. During that time he progressed to second lieutenant, but his career was cut short when he was court-martialed in relation to an incident of racial discrimination in which he allegedly refused to sit in the back of an unsegregated bus. In the end he was honorably discharged.
Jackie started his pro career in 1945 with the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs. He was paid $400 a month.
Larry Doby also broke the color barrier in 1947 for the American League when he signed and played with the Cleveland Indians. Jackie and Larry were friends who reportedly spoke on the phone regularly that season to help encourage one another.
"42" isn't the first movie telling Jackie's amazing story. In fact, the first movie was made in 1950 titled, "The Jackie Robinson Story," where Jackie Robinson appeared in the movie playing himself.
Harrison Ford's portrayal of Branch Rickey is terrific. The bond that developed between the Dodgers GM and Robinson comes across as completely genuine and realistic. The iconic moments are well represented: Robinson signing his contract with Rickey, Pee Wee Reese putting his arm around him in front of a mostly racist Cincinnati crowd, his drama with Phillies manager Ben Chapman, and most important, Robinson's overall performance as a player, which includes one very important home run.
Photo Credit: Getty