42 – How Jackie Robinson Changed Baseball

The movie, 42, is a story about the color integration of Major League Baseball and the two people that lead this movement, Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers (Harrison Ford), and Jackie Robinson, a player from the Negro League (Chadwick Boseman).

At that time, the only place a Black man could play professional baseball was in the Negro Leagues. Whether it was a moral decision on Branch Rickey’s part or simply a means to an end (i.e., winning), Rickey saw a wealth of talent in the Negro Leagues and wanted to bring some of that talent to the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was a decision that not only changed the face of baseball but the entire Nation and changed the course of history.

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Contributing author: Dick Leonardo

42 – Real Life, Reel Difference

  • Although Jackie was court-martialed for insubordination, he was acquitted and in November 1944 received an honorable discharge.
  • The tirade by Ben Chapman actually did happen and even though he was a very good player, he is mostly remembered for the racist rant as the Phillies manager. After Ben Chapmans’ string of insults, Jackie does not breakdown in the dugout tunnel as depicted in the movie.
  • As portrayed in the movie, there really was a petition signed by some of the Dodger players to object against playing with Jackie. Also, Wendell Smith was indeed hired by the Dodgers to help Jackie with acclimating to the Major Leagues.
  • There’s a scene that shows a little boy come to the game to see Jackie and the credits at the end of the movie show that the boy grew up to play for the ‘69 Mets; while true, Jackie did not actually throw him a ball as seen in the movie.
  • In the movie, Jackie proposes to Rachel after he signs with the Dodgers. In reality, they were engaged while he was in the Army 4 years earlier.
  • Leo Durocher was in fact suspended for the 1947 season but because of his connection to known gamblers and bringing gambling into the clubhouse. While he did come under pressure for his public affair with Day, it was the gambling that angered Chandler and led to his suspension.

Where Are They Now?

Jackie Robinson retired after the 1956 season. In his ten year Major League career, he won the Rookie of the Year award in ‘47, the MVP in 1949, played in six World Series (winning one in 1955, when his famous steal of home base occurred), and was elected to six all star games. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of fame in 1962.

Jackie Robinson steals home base in Game One of the 1955 World Series
in the 8th inning with the Brooklyn Dodgers trailing the Yankees 6 to 4.

Afflicted with diabetes in his later years, Robinson died of a heart attack on October 24, 1972.

In 1987, the Rookie of the Year Award was officially renamed the Jackie Robinson Award. In 1997, Major League Baseball retired Jackie’s number, 42, across all major league teams. Players who were wearing that number could do so until they retired. Mariano Rivera is the last player to retire while wearing that number.

In 2004, Major League Baseball declared April 15 Jackie Robinson Day, in which every player can wear 42.

ESPN’s SportsCentury created a 7-part series about Jackie Robinson, naming him the 15th greatest athlete of the 20th Century.

Branch Rickey left Brooklyn in 1950 to work for the Pittsburg Pirates until 1955. Among other things, he was responsible for drafting Roberto Clemente. Rickey ended his career in baseball as a special advisor to the St.Louis Cardinals and continued work with civil rights.

Branch Rickey passed away on December 9, 1965 of heart failure. He was elected into the Hall Of Fame in 1967.

Rachel Robinson went on to form The Jackie Robinson Development Corporation and the Jackie Robinson Foundation after her husbands death. The former low income housing and the latter provides 4 year college scholarships to African American Students.

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