You should consider going to the movies to see “42,” the new biographical film on 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 on all teams wearing 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 straight-forward storytelling, with solid acting. Harrison Ford, who portrayed Dodgers President Branch Rickey who signed Robinson to a contract, probably had 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 real life of just a few years earlier.
An added dimension to “42” is the story of journalist Wendall Smith who chronicled Jackie’s rookie year while writing for a black newspaper. The irony is right there when you see Robinson integrated with the white players while Smith is banned from the all-white press box, sitting in the stands among fans with a typewriter on his lap.
When Jackie Robinson died at age 53 in 1972, Smith wrote his obituary. Then one month later, Smith died at age 58. Amazingly, both of their widows are still alive in their 90’s to see “42” memorialize their husbands.
BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of "Smart Kids, Bad Schools and The $100,000 Teacher." He can be reached at www.brian-crosby.com.