Day 174: 42: The True Story of an American Legend


My planned first for today didn’t work out, nor did my back up first. One because after a quick trip to Tulsa, a short night and a long day, I didn’t have the energy, while the other was hampered by the rain that chased me home from Oklahoma. Tonight, therefore, was declared a movie night! And I had the perfect film to watch, for the first time. Months ago, Linda loaned me a DVD. I had had the Oscar nominated movies to watch and then a few others to catch up on. I’d been saving this one, until now.

42, subtitled The True Story of an American Legend, stars Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie, and was written and directed by Brian Helgeland. It is rated PG-13 and has a run time of 2 hours and 8 minutes. It is considered a biography sports drama.

42 is the Jackie Robinson story, from his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 to his phenomenal rookie year in 1947 when he broke the color barrier in major league baseball. Robinson, played by Chadwick Boseman, is recruited by Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, which incidentally, was Harrison Ford’s first portrayal of a real life character. Rickey created a stir when he brought the first African American baseball player into the major leagues. The deal also put him and Robinson under attack from the press, the public and even other players. Facing racism and threats from every side, Jackie Robinson was forced to demonstrate tremendous courage and draw from deep within himself to quiet any desire to retaliate in kind.

Rickey faced pressure as well, from other major league teams and managers and his own staff and players, many of whom planned to quit the team. His belief in the game and his belief in Jackie provided strength and resolve when cruel taunts and the unfairness of life threatened to bring his star rookie down. Together, Rickey’s unwavering support and number 42’s talent for baseball won over fans and teammates, silenced the critics and changed the world by changing the game.

There were so many reasons to love this film. It was wonderfully acted, with Harrison Ford and his slightly goofy look bringing many a smile as his character stepped up and held firm against prejudice and ignorance. At the same time, Chadwick Boseman brought tears as his character defined himself in a field where no definitions yet existed. There are many sports heroes, and yet this was a time of extreme heroism as these two men stood against a tide of old beliefs and deep seated fears. I cheered for Jackie Robinson, along with the fans in the stadium, over every victory, in the game and in his life. Jackie tells his wife, played by the lovely Nicole Beharie, “I don’t care if they like me. I didn’t come here to make friends. I don’t even care if they respect me. I know who I am. I’ve got enough respect for myself. I do not want them to beat me.” He wasn’t referring to striking out at bat. He didn’t not, would not, allow who he was to be beaten down.

Toward the end of movie, Robinson faces a pitcher who beaned him in the head during a previous game. Stakes are high, as the Dodgers move relentlessly toward bringing home the pennant. The pitcher throws three foul balls, nervously avoiding Robinson, but also avoiding the strike zone. With quiet strength and determination, Robinson faces the man without flinching and softly asks, “C’mon, what are you afraid of? What…are you….afraid of?” The next pitch flies in, hard and low, and Robinson knocks it out of the ballpark. That scene moved me deeply . What am I afraid of?  Facing all that life throws my way, without flinching, can I too say “bring it”…. and then knock it out of the ballpark? Yes…..I believe I can!