When I was younger, my dad would tell me stories of the legendary baseball players of his day. Willie Mays, Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Honus Wagner, and Jackie Robinson all became familiar names in my head even though none of them ever played baseball in my lifetime. Baseball knowledge is not something that most little girls seek out for themselves. I can credit my dad for for giving me a love of baseball: the game, the sport, the strategy, and the history of it all.
We went to minor league baseball games at Rosenblatt Stadium– home of the College World Series until just recently. We traveled to Iowa once, not to see the Field Of Dreams, but to meet old-time baseball player Bob Feller. Upon meeting Feller, my dad acted like a giddy schoolgirl. My brother and I found it embarrassing at the time. We didn’t realize that’s what happens when you meet one of your boyhood idols when you’re well into your 60s.
When we were kids, my brother found a box of my dad’s old baseball cards. He went ballistic when he skimmed through the stacks and found a Jackie Robinson baseball card. He held it up to the sky and looked astonished: “It’s autographed!”
My brother and I looked at each other, shell-shocked. Several other cards were signed, too. Many of them were those legendary names we’d only heard about from our dad’s baseball talk. We excitedly brought the stack of cards to dear old Dad and handed him Jackie’s card.
“Oh,” Dad said, looking fondly at the Robinson card, “I signed that.”
Unfortunately, Dad had just been a kid collecting baseball cards way back when. He didn’t know the value those names would have someday. As a kid, he’d signed them all– pretending he’d actually gotten the autographs of these big-time baseball greats. That day, my brother had held an authentic Jackie Robinson baseball card autographed by Dad. Awesome. That was a memory that stuck.
With that memory in mind, I’m looking forward to seeing 42 , the big screen story of Jackie Robinson. Robinson’s widow, Rachel, now in her nineties, had been famously resistant to the idea of a movie being made about her husband. As the years went on, however, she warmed up to the idea– mostly because kids today don’t understand the gravity of what it meant to break the color barrier in baseball– What a triumph that was and consequently, what a hardship it was for a young married couple like the Robinsons.
In an L.A. Times article, Producer Thomas Tull mentioned that Ken Griffey, Jr had told him that teens he tutored didn’t even know who Jackie Robinson was. In the same article, Rachel Robinson noted: “I was getting older, and I really wanted kids to know who Jack was and to think about what they can do with their own lives…”
For these reasons and more, Legendary Pictures producer, Tull, wanted to make the film. Thought racism still exists today, it’s almost unimaginable to comprehend that less than fifty years ago, racism and segregation was a given in our society.
Apart from the baseball history and nostalgia 42 will certainly provide for ardent baseball fans, it’s also a film to be seen for the personal story behind Robinson’s legacy. May it serve as a reminder of the strides we’ve made in making segregation and racism a thing of the past.