Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Seems appropriate that surfing cable tonight, I came upon this film, which so many friends recommended to me, sure I'd love it, but I had yet to see. Appropriate after my post yesterday about my friend Richard Andersen's book about an American Legion sponsored boy's baseball team that refused to give up a black teammate in the face of Southern racism in 1934. Because, as I said in that post, it predated by over a decade the entrance of Jackie Robinson into professional baseball, the first "Negro" ball player of that era to play on an otherwise all-white professional baseball team.

I did a lot of wiping away tears and repressing bigger emotional outbursts sitting in my raggedy old easy chair watching 42 a few hours ago, the story of Jackie Robinson's challenging but successful emergence as a true sports hero and an example to little white boys like me at the time (see my poem "Sports Heroes, Cops, and Lace" in CANT BE WRONG).

Harrison Ford gives one of the best performances of his long career as Branch Rickey, the owner of The Brooklyn Dodgers who made the decision to hire Robinson despite opposition from almost every direction, including much of his team. It's not just an impressive performance but a moving one. And Chadwick Boseman as Robinson does a terrific job as well, although he had some moves, especially early in the film, that seemed more 21st century than mid-20th. Nicole Beharie as his wife does a great job too, though also at times a bit contemporary for the period.

I watched Jackie Robinson play so much on TV and give interviews and star as himself in a black and white version of his story that came out when I was a boy and Jackie was still playing baseball, that I felt like he was an integral part of my life. And right from the start he was a model for me of courage and determination and tenacity. To see that familiar story played out in a new movie with great acting (and good writing and directing by Brian Helgeland) and be moved all over again by this amazing tribute to the human spirit felt like some sort of almost personal triumph. Talk about engaging the audience.

So, as so many have said to me since 42 (by the way, that was Robinson's number on his shirt, the only number to ever be permanently retired from baseball) came out, I highly recommend this film.

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