With the baseball season now in full swing, it’s not surprising that the movie, 42, is still setting box office records. The biopic focuses on baseball Hall of Framer Jackie Robinson’s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Taking the field as the Dodgers’ first baseman, Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color-barrier.
During its opening weekend, 42 grossed $27.5 million. That marks the highest grossing debut for a baseball movie and the second highest gross for sports drama, behind The Blind Side (2009), which made $34 million its opening weekend.
Prior to Robinson’s joining the Dodgers and ending racial segregation in baseball, African-Americans played in the Negro Leagues, which dates back to the 1880s. The leagues showcased such great players as Theodore “Double Duty” Radcliff (1902-2005) and Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige (1906-1982.).
Double Duty got his nickname because he played as a pitcher and catcher during the Leagues’ 1932 World Series doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Paige got his nickname from his childhood job of carrying train passengers’ luggage. His friends teased him saying, “He looked like a satchel tree.” Robinson also played in the Negro Leagues, starting in 1945.
42 has a strong ensemble cast. In an incredible and almost unrecognizable role, Harrison Ford plays Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. The baseball executive pursued, groomed, and supported Robinson during that extraordinary time. The film is directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Brian Thomas Helgeland (L.A. Confidential). Howard University graduate Chadwick Boseman, an actor, playwright and screenwriter, plays Robinson.
The film’s cinematography beautifully captures historic New York City with authenticity. The background love story between Robinson and his wife, Rachel, is inspirational and a testimony to the strength of a marriage in overcoming adversities.
While Rosa Parks is regarded as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Robinson staged his own protest more than a decade before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, refusing to move to the back of a military bus. This almost got him court-martialed.
Robinson and his wife have a long history of social justice advocacy for African-Americans. Robinson was the MLB’s first African-American television analyst. He was later the first black vice president of a major American corporation. Robinson helped establish the Freedom National Bank in the early 1960s, the first African-American owned financial institution located in Harlem.
Robinson’s baseball accomplishments are stellar.
He had a .311 lifetime batting average, and recorded 1,518 hits, 137 home runs, and batted in 734 runs. He also had 197 stolen bases during his career. In 1962, he was inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame.
Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal. In a great tribute, Robinson’s “42” jersey number has been retired by every major league baseball team.
Prior to his death on Oct. 24, 1972, Robinson, 53, and his wife were icons in their New York community. They started the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which is still managed by his wife and family today. To date, the foundation has awarded college scholarships to 1400 students.
Robinson was a man great words and deeds. He is famous for many quotes, his most notable: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
42 is a must see for everyone. Because of Robinson’s contributions and historic impact, the way has been paved for any of us to follow suite and hit a few home runs in our lives.