42 (movie)

From BR Bullpen

42 is a movie which premiered on April 12, 2013 and focuses on Jackie Robinson's first two seasons in organized baseball, when he broke baseball's color line and ushered the era of integration, first in the minor leagues with the Montreal Royals in 1946, then in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The movie's title comes from the number 42 which Robinson wore, and which has since been retired throughout baseball in his honor.

A major Hollywood production written and directed by Brian Helgeland, 42 stars Chadwick Boseman, in his first major role, as the great player and social pioneer (Jasha Balcom played Robinson in action scenes). The most famous co-star is Harrison Ford, who plays Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. Although based on real events, the movie depicts a number of scenes that are a figment of later-day legends rather than documented events, such as a scene where Pee Wee Reese places his arm around Jackie's shoulder to show a hostile crowd that the new player is embraced by his teammates; it's a story that's been retold often, but for which there is little or no historical evidence. More accurate events are also portrayed, such as the cruel hostility shown towards Robinson by Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman. Of course, Robinson's life story is so well known by baseball fans that there is little suspense in the film, but the story is well told.

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller is turned into a villain by the movie, supposedly hitting Robinson in the head intentionally, taunting him repeatedly and then giving up the pennant-winning homer to Robinson after more taunting. In real life, Ostermueller worried about hitting Robinson, did hit him in the arm in an incident that the media (including black reporting legend Wendell Smith) did not find overly notable and served up a relatively meaningless late-season homer to Robinson.

The baseball scenes in the movie were shot at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, AL. Former major leaguer C.J. Nitkowski played Dutch Leonard.

The film was pre-screened for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House on April 3, 2013 and received excellent reviews from the first couple, with Michelle stating that she was "visibly, physically moved". Advance showings were also made for major league stars, such as Matt Kemp, who also commented positively. Major League Baseball was closely associated with the promotion of the film, giving it significant play on mlb.com and arranging with all 30 teams to sponsor free screenings for teenagers in major league cities.

42 was the highest-grossing movie in North America in its first week of theatrical release.

Seven years later, in 2020, on the occasion of "Jackie Robinson Day", which took place during the coronavirus pandemic, the film's producer, Thomas Tull, made a charitable donation of $4.2 million in Robinson's honor. The money was to provide protective medical equipment to health care organizations in the United States serving African-American communities and other communities that have been impacted most by the coronavirus pandemic. The African-American community was disproportionately affected by the disease, according to initial figures. Sadly, when the day was rescheduled to August 28th, in the midst of nationwide questioning on racial relations, lead actor Chadwick Boseman passed away after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was only 43 and had become a major star following his initial turn portraying Robinson.

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Krell: "Fact vs. Fiction: An Analysis of Baseball in Films", The Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 43, number 2, Fall 2014, pp. 42-45.
  • Manny Randhawa: "Boseman, who played Jackie in ‘42,’ dies", mlb.com, August 29, 2020. [1]
  • Steve Zeitchik: "For ’42,’ Chadwick Boseman had to please Jackie Robinson’s No. 1 fan", Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2013. [2]

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