This is quite a story, even without the Disney spice. They dramatized it just the right amount I think; enough to reel in what I’m assuming is a massive audience without turning off hardcore sports movie fans like me.
I prefer the authenticity of Friday Night Lights, the greatest sports movie of all time, but 42 still rocked it. I was moved throughout by the three main characters (in the sports story). Chadwick Boseman, playing Jackie Robinson, did a great job capturing the anguish and stress of being the first black player in the major leagues. Harrison Ford didn’t go too over the top as Branch Rickey. The Wendell Smith role was played in an understated and expert manner by Andre Holland. In general, “great job great effort.”
Clearly, Jackie Robinson is the hero of this story, but each member of this trio deserves some recognition for being generally great. I mean, good lord, talk about three people fulfilling their potential, living up to the hype, and knocking it out of the park – it’s all here.
Not only does Robinson succeed in the face of adversity and intense pressure, he becomes the first rookie of the year and leads the Dodgers to the World Series that same year (but they lost). He continues to play well for years, gets a batting title and MVP, and eventually gets a World Series ring in 1955.
Branch Rickey not only integrated baseball, but he is credited for, among other things, popularizing the minor league system, opening the first full time spring training facility (Vero Beach), and hiring a full time statistical analyst in 1947. That’s cutting edge stuff dude.
And let’s not forget Wendell Smith. He often gets credit for influencing the choice of Robinson by Rickey, was the first black member of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America, and continued to write and anchor TV sports (for WGN) until an early death from cancer in 1972 (age 58).
Talk about a dream team folks. This confluence of sporting ability, managerial competence, and writing skill displayed by Robinson/Rickey/Smith may be one of the greatest “trilogies” ever. I love trilogies.
That’s what it took to integrate baseball, which is sad. Really sad. In fact it really saddens me to think about it. That was in my parent’s lifetime man, just not that long ago. Even my own lifetime still contains rampant racism; this struck me during the Payton book because his high school didn’t integrate until 1970, when I was four.
We still feel the effects today.
Go see this movie. It’s important.