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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An Impression of 42


We saw the movie 42 yesterday. It is the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black man to break in to Major League baseball. The movie moved along with short sequences of baseball and Robinson, Brach Rickey, Robinson’s fellow ball players and his wife. The baseball sections were exciting and moving and mercifully brief, unlike the long drawn out boredom of a full nine innings.

The film was a good reminder of the virulence and hostility of many white Americans toward their Black neighbors. Explicit name calling like nigger “boy” coon ripped out at us from the screen. Exclusion of Blacks from white only toilets, restaurants and hotels smacked us. I think we need those reminders, as racism is more hidden and smoldering in the dark today.

Harrison Ford’s playing Branch Rickey displayed Rickey’s complex motivation for bringing in the first Negro ball player. It was money, seeing the inevitable and a sense of shame that segregation brought to his beloved game.  I wonder how he would feel today with the greed, salaries and manipulation of the game by club owners, players, drugs, agents, advertising and unions.

The movie is well worth seeing – gripping, shocking and inspirational.  It showed many of Robinson’s fellow players moving from racial hatred to admiration for his abilities. Some remained intransigent. Robinson’s suffering, rage and endurance showed his valor. He knew exactly what he was doing by not fighting back. He let his bat and glove establish his right to play Major League baseball.

The movie was particularly reminiscent for me. In 1946-1947 the newspapers were full of the story of Rickey signing Robinson. At fifteen, I was an ardent Brooklyn Dodger baseball fan as we lived in Brooklyn where my brother Edwin and I were born and raised. Our father talked with us about how Negroes were discriminated against and how wonderful that Robinson was to break the color barrier. Montreal, where Robinson played in the minor leagues for a year, came to Newark, NJ to play the Newark team. Dad took Edwin and me by subway and railroad to see one of the games and see Jackie Robinson play. It was very exciting. I have no recollection of how Robinson played that day. But I didn’t care, I saw him play.

The next year he was signed to play in Brooklyn with the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. We went to a number of games over the years until the Dodger moved to Los Angeles. 42 is a good movie, entertainment and history lesson.

RWC

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