Let me start by saying that I am certainly no movie critic … I don’t even go to a lot of movies at the theater. In addition, I rarely read movie reviews because I like to see what I want to see and form my own opinion on what I do or do not enjoy. So now that the disclaimers are out of the way, I want to share my thoughts about the movie, “42” – the Jackie Robinson story.
Basic Plot Line
Naturally, the movie is a biopic of Jackie Robinson (portrayed by Chadwick Boseman) in 1946 & 1947 … important to note that this is a mere snippet of time – the making of Jackie as a Brooklyn Dodger (crossing the baseball color line) and not really his playing career. This may or may not disappoint some hard-core baseball fans. And even though I “knew” the story and the outcome walking into the theater, it certainly didn’t affect my ability to enjoy it and anticipate what might happen next – I was fairly riveted to the storyline … great acting certainly helped!
The General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey (wonderfully played by Harrison Ford) was truly a visionary in his desire to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier by signing a Negro player. Initially he talks about how it is good for winning, which is good to make more money; however, toward the end, he shares a story with Robinson from his past of how he didn’t feel he did enough for a Negro player and really wanted to make it right.
The movie chronicles the selection of Robinson to be “the” one – his signing – and then his move from the Kansas City Monarchs (part of the Negro Leagues) to the spring training camp of the Montreal Royals (a minor league affiliate of the Dodgers’ organization). Jackie’s first hope is to actually make the Montreal team, which he does. Now the movie doesn’t spend any time in Montreal but a friend of mine (who is Canadian) commented that he and his wife were loved there and shared a video with me (see links below). They were not so welcomed in the US where even on the minor league team he was boo’d and cursed for playing “white baseball.”
Of course, Jackie Robinson was called up to the majors and played for the Brooklyn Dodgers (for 10 years). The taunting and prejudice that Robinson received in the minor league system was just the beginning. In the majors, fans, league officials, players, even teammates were against him. Teams threatened to forfeit because they didn’t want to share a field with him. Teammates asked to be traded because they didn’t want to wear the same uniform or share a locker room with him. One of the most painful scenes in the movie is the constant taunting by the Phillies manager, Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) who threw an endless barrage of the N-word at him for every at bat. But humanity did come through as that also prompted teammates to start standing up for Jackie and this was a turning point in the clubhouse relationships.
My favorite Parts of the Movie “42”
The relationship with Rachel Robinson (Nicole Beharie) – Jackie’s wife – although there could have been more revealed, there was enough to demonstrate that she was loving, loyal, and supportive of Jackie and his desire to play Major League Baseball regardless of the incredible challenges they both faced.
Wonderful scenes at the old ballparks … now I must put those locations on my “must see” ballparks list. Many of the minor league game scenes were shot on location at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, AL. This ballpark has quite a history of its own and was highly appropriate for this movie. The other location was Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, TN – it received renovations for the movie and was used as the “Ebbets Field.”
I giggled every time there was a scene with Jackie taunting pitchers with the fear of stealing a base, which he did with ease! He just loved getting in their heads and pulling them off their game by worrying about him … and with good reason! Man, I sure would have loved to see him play!
I was also fascinated with the interplay between Jackie and Wendell Smith (Andre Holland). It was obvious he was a writer – likely a sports reporter – but I did not fully understand his role or who he worked for based on the movie. Thus, I had to do a bit of research when I got home. It seems he a sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Courier and was pretty influential in the selection of Jackie Robinson because he covered the Negro Leagues and knew he had the strong character needed to succeed in this difficult role. He was paid by both the Courier and Branch Rickey to assist Jackie and ensure he had a place to sleep and eat in safety – often a challenge during the “Whites Only” days of segregation. I would have liked to have seen this relationship a bit more fully explored in the movie.
Ultimately, it came down to baseball and the objective was to let the play on the field settle any question about who should or should not be playing in the major leagues! That was ultimately proved when Robinson made the game-winning – National League pennant-clinching – home run off of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher who previously beamed him in the head (obviously on purpose). Talk about settling it on the field – now that was perfect – and the look on that pitcher’s face was priceless!
My Favorite Quotes from the Movie “42”
Jackie Robinson: “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” Branch Rickey: “No. I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.” Jackie Robinson: “You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back, I’ll give you the guts.”
Leo Durocher: “If Robinson can help us win, then he is gonna play on this ball club!“
Reporter: “What you gonna do if one of these pitchers throws for your head?” Jackie Robinson: “I’ll duck.”
Wendell Smith: “You are not the only one with something at stake here. Why do you think I sit on the 3rd base line with my typewriter in my lap? Negros aren’t allowed in the Press Box.”
Branch Rickey: “The world’s not so simple anymore, I guess it never was. We ignored it, now we can’t.”
Ralph Branca: “Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42” (… and now they do on Jackie Robinson Day!)
The Baseball PHD Recommendation
The movie made me laugh … made me cry … made me think. Whether or not you like baseball, you should see this movie because it is part of history and the more we know the less likely we are to repeat mistakes. But if you love baseball, you HAVE to see this movie because it will give you a glimpse at history and a truly American Hero – and darn good baseball player!
Just the Facts
“42” runs 128 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including language.
Brian Helgeland – Director/Screenwriter
Thomas Tull – Producer
Dick Cook, Josh Jashni, & Jason Clark – Executive Producers
- Harrison Ford – as Branch Rickey
- Chadwick Boseman – as Jackie Robinson
- Nicole Beharie – as Rachel Robinson
- Christopher Meloni – as Leo Durocher
- Andre Holland – as Wendell Smith
- Lucas Black – as Pee Wee Reese
- Hamish Linklater – as Ralph Branca
Links to Additional Information
Peoria, Arizona, location of the Peoria Sports Complex – the Spring Training home for the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. The complex is owned by the City of Peoria and sits on 145 acres near Bell Road and AZ101. The stadium seats 11,333, has 12 practice fields, 2 team clubhouses, and 1 visitor’s clubhouse. Attendance for Spring Training has averaged about 230,000 and another 300,000 fill the complex for other events throughout the year including Arizona Summer League, Arizona Instructional League baseball, Arizona Fall League, and the Arizona Baseball Academy to name a few.
In 1993, the City of Peoria finalized a two-year negotiation between the Mariners and Padres to begin construction on the Peoria Sports Complex. It was the first Spring Training facility in MLB to be shared by two teams and has since served as a model for others. Construction was completed and the first Spring Training games were played there in 1994, March 2 – Padres vs. Mariners. Each team signed a 20 year lease initially and negotiated a lease renewal through 2033. As a part of the renewal agreement, extensive renovations will take place to both clubhouses as well as the stadium. Both teams use the complex year round for player development.
Of course, Spring Training also means an opportunity for fans to get up close to Major League players and those who will be stars in the future. Saying hello – getting a hat or a ball signed – having one of the players recognize you from before – it’s all part of what makes Spring Training fantacular! Some of the newer facilities have been built to keep fans at a distance and I truly believe that is a mistake because this is a time to be part of the experience. But that is certai0nly not the case with the Peoria Sports Complex … it is truly one of the most fan-friendly ballparks in the Cactus League system. In addition to filling your autograph book you should plan to fill your stomach as well! The food selections are outstanding … tri tip, shrimp or fish tacos, freshly grilled teriyaki bowls, Greek Gyros, BBQ, special kids meals, and much more.
Notes – I love my team and I would go to Peoria every year to see them regardless; however, I have been to every ballpark in the Cactus League and this particular complex remains my favorite because of the overall atmosphere and experience. When you leave the complex you have more food choices than you can handle … from fast food to complete dining … and there is a shopping mall across the street as well in case there is something you need to buy. With an AL and NL team calling Peoria home, you are sure to find a match up that you want to see – and why not see it at the most fan-friendly ballpark – that’s what Spring Training is all about!
The Baseball PHD has been visiting the Peoria Sports Complex since 2008. This year she visited on two consecutive days:
- Friday, Mar 8, 2013 – Athletics @ Mariners: A’s 12, Mariners 1 – game called in the top of the 4th due to rain
- Saturday, Mar 9, 2013 – Rangers @ Padres: Rangers 5, Padres 2 with 3,489 in attendance
Destination – Tempe, Arizona … location of the Tempe Diablo Stadium … Spring Training home for the Los Angeles Angels … celebrating their 20th year at this location. The 75-acre complex includes 6 1/2 practice fields plus the main stadium that seats 9,558. There is berm seating (up to 2,300) but is only on the left field side – right field is a parking lot and the entrance for the visiting team. The stadium sits at the base of the Twin Buttes and one provides a beautiful backdrop behind left field. Tempe Diablo Stadium also hosts the night games for the Arizona League’s Tempe Angels.
History – Tempe Diablo Stadium was opened in 1968 and was the Spring Training home of the Seattle Pilots 1969-1970; the Milwaukee Brewers 1971-1972; and the Seattle Mariners 1977-1993. Similar to Scottsdale Stadium, this facility had extensive renovations in 2006 ($20 million) and (like the Giants) the Angels signed a lease extension through 2025.
People – Fans were plentiful – even on a weekday when the weather was a bit cooler than normal for Spring Training. With All-Stars like Albert Pujols (9x), Josh Hamilton (5x), Jared Weaver (3x), CJ Wilson (2x), Mark Trumbo, and Mike Trout … the fans have a lot to be optimistic about in 2013! There is a picnic area above the third base outfield with a great view of the game. It includes numerous picnic tables, round tables with umbrellas, and even a party zone area. Of course, there are many food stands along that zone as well … I personally tried the pulled pork sandwich and thought it was excellent.
Between the practice field accessibility and the plentiful autographs along the first base line, Tempe Diablo is a pretty fan-friendly complex and one that I encourage you to visit.
The Baseball PHD
The Baseball PHD visited Tempe Diablo Stadium on two consecutive days:
Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013 – Diamondbacks @ Angels: concluded in a 7-7 tie with 3,094 in attendance.
Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 – Giants @ Angels: concluded in an 8-8 tie with 4,042 in attendance.
2200 West Alameda Drive
Tempe, AZ 85282
Destination – Scottsdale, Arizona … location of the Scottsdale Stadium … Spring Training home for the San Francisco Giants. The stadium sits on 11 acres in downtown Scottsdale. Situated on a busy thoroughfare, across the street from the Scottsdale Healthcare Hospital, and just a few blocks from Old Town Scottsdale. The stadium’s location makes it the most “urban” ballpark in the Cactus League system.
History – Scottsdale Stadium was built in 1992 and has a capacity of 12, 000. The stadium was originally the home of the Phoenix Firebirds of the Pacific Coast League (1992-1997). In 2006, the stadium underwent a substantial renovation. In return, the San Francisco Giants signed a contract extension to remain at this stadium through 2025. With all the new ballpark construction in Arizona, this is a fairly significant extension.
People – The fans coming to this stadium certainly love their Giants! Although I saw many World Series T-shirts, there was a wide variety of Giants attire. Many that I spoke with love to travel to Arizona each summer for Spring Training so they can get up-close and personal with their team. Others live here year-round – love baseball – and have adopted the Giants as their team … at least for Spring Training!
Because I was on assignment with the Giants, I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with a lot of fans or sample the food … but those I did observe certainly seemed to be having a great time! The ballpark has an old-school atmosphere … feels like a traditional ballpark with a nice and intimate feeling to it. There is plenty of berm “seating” for those who prefer to stretch out and catch some rays. Based on what I saw and experienced, I would certainly recommend adding Scottsdale Stadium to your list of Spring Training ballparks to visit.
The Baseball PHD
The Baseball PHD visited Scottsdale Stadium on Monday, Feb 25, 2013 … the San Francisco Giants hosted the Chicago White Sox. The game concluded in a 9-9 tie after 9 innings.
7408 East Osborn Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Hello Baseball Fans!
With only 9 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, I’m starting to get baseball fever! I’m looking forward to making at least one trip to the Cactus League this year and planning another one to secure some fresh interviews with managers, players, and fans.
Attended a fantastic meeting of our local SABR chapter on Saturday … our guest speaker was Roland Hemond. It was amazing to listen to his terrific stories of many baseball legends and even had the opportunity to try on his TWO World Series Rings. I will write another story about his talk very soon.
Looking forward to the 2013 Season and chatting with you througout.
The Baseball PHD