By Dan Skip Allen
Baseball is America's favorite pastime, and it has been for many decades. But not until 1947 did the first black man play in the majors, and his name was Jackie Robinson. Robinson played his first game at Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, making history as the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball. One day every year, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day in honor of this achievement. Every player in the MLB wears Jackie's number 42 as a way to pay tribute to this great player. There have been two movies about this legendary man. One is called The Jackie Robinson Story (which came out in 1950 and starred Robinson as himself), and the other is called 42 (a 2013 biopic starring Chadwick Boseman) in honor of his number.
Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford in 42 and Minor Watson in The Jackie Robinson Story) wanted to change the game by bringing in one of the negro league players. He chose Robinson because of his military service and his religious beliefs. He was a Methodist just like Rickey. These were qualities Rickey liked in Robinson, but of course, the way he played the game of baseball was also important. Rickey had one rule, though: Robinson couldn't fight back. He told Robinson that he knew people weren't going to like him being hired to play baseball. Living in the south in Sanford, Florida, Jackie had his fair share of problems with the people and the law.
Earning his spot with the Montreal Royals, Jackie proved all the doubters wrong and proved Rickey to be right all along. The Brooklyn Dodgers were the standard in baseball for many decades but it wasn't until they moved to Los Angeles that they began to stand on their own. They shared New York with the Yankees and Giants, but now they had a city all to their own. Robinson was able to shine even brighter than he ever did before. Sharing the field with the likes of Pee Wee Reese (played by Lucas Black in 42) and managed by Leo Durocher (portrayed by Christopher Meloni in 42) didn't necessarily make him a team favorite either... until he helped them win all the time, that is.
Besides Rickey, Robinson had a lot of support from his wife Rae Robinson (played by Ruby Dee in The Jackie Robinson Story and Nichole Baharie in 42). She is like his rock and so are his children. He is a good father and husband. A friendly writer Wendell Smith (Andre Holland in 42) has also come to his aid, writing friendly articles about the talented ballplayer. Robinson needs the support of his wife, children, Smith, and Rickey to become the great player he is destined to be. Robinson would become the NL Rookie of the Year in 1947, the NL MVP in 1949, and led the league in stolen bases in '47 & '49. He was also a six-time all-star from '49 to '54 and helped the Dodgers to 6 consecutive World Series, one of which they won (1955). He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Robinson contributed to the civil rights movement as well using the non-violent method he got from Rickey. He has become a man that young African-American boys and girls can look up to for decades to come. It was a no brainer the MLB honored him the way they did. The Jackie Robinson Story and 42 are both great examples of Jackie's story and the troubles he had to deal with on and off the field. Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk in 42), the Phillies Manager was the prime culprit when on the field. He was merciless with his racial slurs. Of course, Jackie proved him wrong with his play on the field. That has and always will be the answer to a loudmouth blowhard like Chapman.
Chadwick Boseman has made a career out of playing real-life people. He has played James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. He seems right at home playing these legendary men. Boseman has a knack for getting to the human side of his characters. He makes people have empathy for him, which makes his performances that much more effective. He embodied what Jackie Robinson meant to the game of baseball.
Jackie Robinson once said, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." Based on Robinson's life, people should look at their experiences and try to be better people. He went through a lot of adversity, and we can all learn from what he did, and hopefully, be able to make an impact of our own.
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