Sarah's Take: '42' a powerful, moving film

Sarah's Take: '42' a powerful, moving film

The movie "42" is destined to be an American classic. I love baseball and chose to have a career involving the sport, but I usually don't like baseball movies. I loved "42." Based on the first two years Jackie Roosevelt Robinson played professional baseball, "42" showed everyone clearly what Robinson went through to make America and baseball more accepting for all people.

Most of the time when people remember what Robinson did for baseball and America, they tend to forget about the contributions of Branch Rickey, who had the courage to break the gentlemen's agreement barring African-Americans from playing in the Major Leagues. The movie "42" accurately showed how involved Rickey was with the integration of baseball.

Harrison Ford portrayed Rickey brilliantly. Without Rickey's courage, wisdom and desire to attract African-American fans to Brooklyn Dodgers games, Robinson wouldn't have had the opportunity to break the color barrier. Ford brought a mixture of gruffness and compassion to the part that made the character believable.

Even though Rickey asked Robinson not to fight back, the Dodgers general manager understood how difficult it was for Robinson. Rickey carefully chose Robinson because he had played with whites at UCLA and had challenged racism peacefully when he was court martialed for not moving to the rear of an Army bus. The movie begins with a bus carrying the Kansas City Monarchs, a team in the Negro League for whom Robinson had been playing for, stopped at a rural gas station in Mississippi. The owner was happy to sell the team gasoline and 5 cent bottles of Coke, but when Robinson tried to use the toilet, the owner objected. After a moment of thinking while other players accepted this blatant racism, Robinson, establishing himself as a leader, told the owner to take the hose out of the bus because they could find somewhere else to buy 99 gallons of gas. The owner, facing the possibility of losing a much needed sale, allowed Robinson and the others to use the toilet.

Although racism was the major theme of "42," because Robinson faced it practically everywhere he went, the director didn't dwell on it excessively. Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Robinson, showed us strength and frustration by his facial expressions. Robinson had to win over his managers and teammates, many of whom came from the South where segregation was widely accepted and the norm.

While many scouts didn't think Robinson was the best player in the Negro Leagues, he first dominated the International League, where the Montreal Royals played, and then the National League as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He let his energetic play fight racism and gain acceptance.

The Brooklyn Dodgers players began a petition to keep Robinson off the team when Rickey was preparing to promote Robinson to the Major Leagues. Soon to be suspended for a year for off-the-field problems, manager Leo Durocher had a meeting where he got the players' attention. He said, "I do not care if the guy is yellow or black or if he has stripes like a zebra. I'm manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded."

Although Burt Shotton managed the 1947 Dodgers in Durocher's absence, Dodgers players had to accept Robinson or Rickey would trade them. One of the players did get traded to Pittsburgh. This scene provided comic relief during an inspirational movie, because the player went on and on about being traded to Pittsburgh.

Robinson was a strong person to tolerate abuse generated by racial hatred, but "42" shows the younger generations who weren't alive when segregation existed how hard it was to accept integration. At one point in the movie, Robinson broke down after a racist Philadelphia Phillies manager heckled him unmercifully until one of Robinson's teammates stood up for him. Without Rickey and his loving wife, Rachel, giving him support, Robinson wouldn't have been able to handle the stress to integrate into the Major Leagues.

If Robinson had failed, no one knows when baseball would have been integrated. Many other institutions, like public schools, were integrated after Robinson broke the color barrier.

Despite playing out of his natural position, Robinson won the first Rookie of the Year Award. He had a 10-year Major League career in which he won an MVP Award (1949) and helped the Dodgers win their first and only World Series championship in Brooklyn in 1955. When he was traded after the 1956 season to the New York Giants, he retired. In 1962, he became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Three years later, Rickey joined Robinson in the Hall of Fame.

Every April 15,  Major Leaguers wear No. 42 to remember what Robinson did for baseball and the United States. Every team has retired the number to  honor Robinson's contributions to the game.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Robinson. Growing up in Pasadena, Calif., Robinson's hometown, he was a constant example to me of how to integrate society. As a handicapped female, I was not allowed to attend a school with able-bodied children until fifth grade. I couldn't attend a regular class until sixth grade where the teacher thought she had to create different lessons for me. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was attending all classes with able-bodied students. Sometimes it was lonely, but I wouldn't have gotten the education that I deserved if I stayed in special education. I went to the same junior college as Robinson. Neither of us had financial resources to finish our four-year degrees. If either of us failed, the advancement of our minority group would have been delayed or might not have happened.

The movie "42" should be considered for several Academy Awards, for superior acting, superior screenplay and superior story. Let it serve as a reminder of what Robinson accomplished.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.