As I walked into the movie theater on Friday night I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if I was going to see a glamorized version of one of the most important stories in baseball and American history, or if I was going to see something that I could believe touched on a piece of what the truth was.
In the opening moments of the movie a scene is depicted where the Kansas City Monarchs baseball team is filling up the gas tank on the bus and Jackie Robinson attempts to use the bathroom. The gas station attendant tells him he can’t because it is for whites only and in response Jackie tells the attendant to take the hose out of the gas tank and that they would get their 100 gallons of gas somewhere else. The attendant quickly realizes the loss in profit and lets them use the bathroom.
When I watched this scene I wondered if this was Hollywood’s way of making Jackie look even stronger as a leader or if this was really something that happened.
The next day I watch part of the 6th inning from Ken Burn’s documentary on baseball and included in the part that I watched was a story being told by Buck O’Neil of what I had seen in the movie 42. It was at that moment that I realized just how much I had enjoyed the movie 42.
It is rare that I go into a movie expecting it to be one of my favorite movies of all time. 42 is one of those movies and it did not disappoint. Could the movie have gone into far more detail about all of the hatred and slurs that Jackie faced each and every day? Yes, but that wasn’t the focus of the story. The story was more about Jackie and what happened to him and his teammates during the entire season.
For me I often judge baseball movies on how well the actors actually play the game. The young man who played Jackie Robinson was nearly flawless in his portrayal of Jackie on the field. Even the way he moved his fingers while on the base paths made me feel like I was watching the real Jackie Robinson getting ready to steal 2nd.
The real star of the show was Harrison Ford playing Branch Rickey. Ford helped viewers to realize that even though the white players were facing tough situations, they didn’t even compare to what Jackie faced every day. You could sense the relationship that Jackie and Mr. Rickey must have had in real life for everything to work the way it did.
Jackie Robinson didn’t just change baseball and help spur on civil rights to a new level. He impacted individual lives of those who watched him play and of those that played with him.
To anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet I would simply say this, “Go.” This story is something that everyone needs to see and remember. I know it is being sold as a baseball movie but in my mind it is a movie about American history and one that needs to be shared with every American. We need to realize and remember that we did not come from a time of harmony amongst all people and we still have a long ways to go to truly be a nation where all people have an equal chance to be great.