The recent release of a documentary on legendary athlete Jackie Robinson has me ready to swing a bat and break out my old catcher’s mitt.
Growing up, baseball wasn’t really my sport. I tried to play softball in a summer league but have to admit what I liked most was the ice-cream sandwich the team got after a win. Looking back, I think we might have gone out for ice-cream sandwiches even when we lost. It was an attempt to reward our efforts and bring the team together. I think it worked for us.
The just-released movie, “42,” chronicles the life of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in major-league baseball. During its opening weekend, the movie took in $27.3 million, according to studio estimates from box office trackers Hollywood.com. It was predicted to bring in less money for a baseball film but exceeded expectations. In fact, the film scored the largest debut on record for a baseball film last weekend, according to media reports.
Film experts say it set a record for a baseball flick in terms of straight dollars, topping the $19.5 million debut of “Moneyball” in 2011. Considering higher ticket prices, the $13.7 million debut of 1992’s “A League of Their Own” would have been on the same level with “42” in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars. “A League of Their Own,” was a film about women in baseball.
The film “42” stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers boss Branch Rickey, who brought Robinson onto the team in 1947 as the major leagues’ first black player. While big names likes Harrison Ford often attract audiences, I think Robinson’s story is what drew millions to the film last weekend. It’s a story of hope and triumph despite adversity. A story like this is worth retelling.
Robinson not only broke the color barrier in baseball but inspired and laid the foundation for others to follow in his footsteps. With Robinson, the Dodgers won six pennants in its 10 seasons. He dominated games on the basepaths, stealing home 19 times while riling opposing pitchers with his daring unique baserunning style, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (http://baseballhall.org). Robinson was named National League Most Valuable Player in 1949, two years after he changed the game.
He is also known for his advancements off the field. He was the first black television analyst in Major League Baseball and the first black vice president of a major American corporation. In the 1960s, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem, N.Y.
Robinson made history, and his story is worth telling. And in this case is worth retelling. While other versions of his story have been documented in books and other films, “42” looks to be just as compelling. I have seen previous films about the famous baseball player but look forward to seeing “42” to see what I can learn from this rendition. I’m sure other sports fans and lovers of history feel the same way. Batter Up!