Steen: Lots of good reasons to see 42

Jackie Robinson would become the first African American to break the colour barrier in baseball.


In 1945, as the boys came back from the Second World War, baseball was becoming the big game and organized baseball had 400 players, all of them white. By 1947 one player was black.

Jackie Robinson, who grew up in poverty without a father, would become the first African American to break the colour barrier in the game. Robinson first played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League and went on to the Montreal Royals—the ‘farm team’ for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The courage it took to withstand the jeers, slurs, insults and abuse from other players—including his own team members—must have been just awful.

Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson does a fine job of portraying a talented man who walks a line between two worlds.

Robinson was brought to the majors by Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) who, against all odds, saw that he could create a winning team with the addition of Robinson and fought racism right alongside of the him.

Spike Lee tried to make a film about Robinson (#42, the only number ever retired in baseball), with Denzel Washington as Robinson, but the project never got off the ground, perhaps because Rachael Robinson resisted for many years to have a film done. But a few years ago she sold the rights for a film and finally gave her blessing.

This is a great cast, many of whom I’m sure, had to stretch to become the racist idiots that they portrayed in the film. Rachel Robinson herself is played by Nicole Beharie and remembers the attacks and threats at its height in 1947.

I have always been a big baseball fan and so I loved the film, the treatment of blacks in America at that time is always hard to watch, and particularly difficult as these same blacks had, the years before, been fighting for the very country that now didn’t even let them play a game with “upstanding white folks.”

Change took a long time to come. It’s too bad he didn’t live to see the present American President.

Robinson himself had10 years with the Brooklyn Dodgers and opened the door for other greats—Willy Mays and Hank Aaron to name just a couple.

He wasn’t the only member of the Robinson family who was athletic. Robinson’s brother Mathew won a silver medal in the 1939 Olympics when he came in just behind Jesse Owens.

Who knows what a toll being the first African American ball player took on Robinson, he died a frail man at the age of 53.

Rachel, who is now 90, went on become director of nursing at the Connecticut Medical Centre and created the Jackie Robinson Foundation. On the Foundation website, there is a photo of her and Harrison Ford.

See this true story, it’s a really good film.

I give 42 four reels out of five.

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