Commentary: Jackie Robinson picture is a window into history

You should consider going to the movies to see "42," the new film about baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson's first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

The actual date of his major league debut, April 15, is commemorated in baseball by all players, from all teams, who wear his number, the only one that is permanently retired.

The film is only the second one that's been made on his life and it is well done. The film is straightforward storytelling, with solid acting. Harrison Ford, who portrays Dodgers President Branch Rickey, who signed Robinson to a contract, probably turned in the best performance.

The other film based on Robinson's life is a 1950s flick called "The Jackie Robinson," which weirdly has the real Robinson playing himself. It actually is a pretty good little film in its own right, with Robinson reenacting his early career.

An added dimension to "42" is the story of journalist Wendall Smith, who chronicled Robinson's rookie year while writing for a black newspaper. It's ironic to see Robinson integrated with the white players while Smith, still banned from the all-white press box, sits in the stands among fans with a typewriter on his lap.

When Robinson died in 1972 at age 53, Smith wrote his obituary. Then one month later, Smith died at age 58. Amazingly, both of their widows are still alive — they are in their 90s — and able to see "42" memorialize their husbands.

BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher and the author of "Smart Kids, Bad Schools and The $100,000 Teacher." He can be reached at

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