- 42: The Jackie Robinson Story(2013)
The feature film 42 follows Brooklyn Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson’s rookie season in 1947. It details Robinson’s trials and triumphs in his efforts to re-integrate Major League Baseball. The film explores the racial hostilities he endured and investigates Robinson’s plight both on and off the field.
42 follows the attempts made by Brooklyn Dodgers President-General Manager Branch Rickey to bring African Americans into Major League Baseball. The movie focuses on the opposition Rickey faced essentially among Dodgers officials. After screening several Negro League players, Rickey eventually chose Jackie Robinson because of his All-American status at the University of California at Los Angeles where he competed with and against white athletes, and for being an Army officer during World War II. Most important of all, Rickey chose Robinson because he was a Methodist, and “God was a Methodist.”
42 highlighted the opposition Robinson confronted from his teammates, who would later stand up for their Dodgers teammate as the season progressed. Several Dodgers players, primarily from the South, drew up a petition threatening not to play if Robinson was brought up from the Triple A Montreal Royals. The proposed boycott was quashed immediately by Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher, who also indicated that Rickey would accommodate any player with a trade if they did not want to play with Robinson. When the Dodgers played the Philadelphia Phillies, Robinson was showered with racial epithets from Phillies Manager Ben Chapman. Chapman’s behavior was so abusive, it led Dodgers teammate, and Southerner, Eddie Stanky to threaten the Phillies manager with physicality if he did not cease from his actions. When opposing pitchers threw at Robinson’s head, the Dodgers’ dugout would rush onto the field to protect their teammate.
Another issue 42 raised dealt with Robinson questioning Branch Rickey regarding why he would do this. In other words, why did Rickey break Major League Baseball’s color line? Rickey claimed that as an executive he did not do enough to bring African Americans into the major leagues. He recounted a story that when he was a manager of the Ohio Wesleyan team, the cries of his African-American player Charlie Thomas being frustrated due to the color of his skin rang in the Dodgers president’s ears. To Rickey, Jackie Robinson made the game fun for him again; and Rickey thanked him for it.
While neglecting important historical facts, 42 is an entertaining feature film regarding the saga of Jackie Robinson. It highlights the important themes surrounding Robinson’s life. It also illustrates the relationship between Rickey and Robinson, as number 42 endeavored to re-integrate the major leagues. [End Page 149]