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
Eleven MLB Teams!
Saw 11 teams play in 7 different games.
Ten Days in Arizona!
Can’t say the weather was great. So spoiled with the typically sunny and warm Spring Training weather in Phoenix but this year it was very chilly the first week (low 40s for morning practices and 60 at game time) and rainy the second week (including a top-of-the 4th rainout). Nevertheless, it was still baseball!
Nine Innings of Baseball!
Honestly – was having trouble coming up with a “9” and this was suggested. It is appropriate since Spring Training games don’t go into extra innings. Overall, I truly saw 75 innings, if you include the World Baseball Classic.
Eight Nights in Hotels!
I’m never sure why people find this great … I would rather be home, in my own bed. But I have no complaints. My longest stay was 5 nights at the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham in Mesa, AZ … it is very close to the AZ101 and to the ballparks on the East side. On our return trip, we stopped in Yuma, AZ and stayed at our usual Oak Tree Inn. Once we arrived in Peoria, AZ, it was back to the Ramada Inn in Peoria … our 3rd stay there. None of these hotels are five star but they are family-friendly, reasonably priced, clean, and conveniently located.
Seven Spring Training Games!
- 2/25 – White Sox at Giants
- 2/26 – Diamondbacks at Angels
- 2/27 – Giants at Angels
- 2/28 – Athletics at Cubs
- 3/01 – Brewers at Rockies
- 3/08 – Athletics at Mariners
- 3/09 – Rangers at Padres
Six New Baseballs!
Five Spring Training Ballparks!
Be sure to read the blogs on each of these ballparks.
4 Media Credentials!
A huge thank you to the following teams for your hospitality:
- Giants – provided Pressbox, Field, and Clubhouse access
- Rockies – provided Pressbox, Field, and Clubhouse access
- Angels – provided Pressbox, Field, and Clubhouse access … was able to interview Manager, Mike Scioscia
- Padres – was able to interview, Manager, Bud Black
3 Great Travel Companions!
This was our sixth consecutive year to make the trek to Arizona for Spring Training … it is amazing how much the boys have grown in that time.
2 World Baseball Classic Games!
We loved the WBC when it was in San Diego in 2009 and were happy to have the opportunity to catch some games in conjunction with Spring Training. We saw USA play Italy on 3/08 and then USA play Canada on 3/10. TheBaseballPHD even got a few tweets on the jumbotron 🙂
1 More Year of Terrific Memories!
It was another wonderful year at Spring Training and I look forward to 2014 … but first, it’s time for the regular season! Play Ball!!
Mesa, Arizona, 10 miles east of Phoenix and location of the Hohokam Stadium (also known as Dwight W. Patterson Field) is the Spring Training home for the Chicago Cubs. Mesa has hosted the Cubs since 1952 and Hohokam Stadium, which opened in 1997, also serves as the home for the Mesa Solar Sox team of the Arizona Fall League. There is a supplemental training facility about a half-mile away – Fitch Park – that includes four practice fields and a practice infield. Extensive seating and a large berm area provides a capacity of 13,074 and they sell out quite frequently! The berm area is spacious and with many more amenities than other stadiums. For a view of the Superstition Mountains, be sure to sit in the 200-level sections (third base side).
The stadium is named after the Mesa HoHoKams, an influential local civic organization that has been the booster of Spring Training baseball in Mesa since 1951. However, the origin of the name actually dates back to the Hohokam Indians who occupied that area until the mid-1400’s. Mesa boasts over 90 years of baseball beginning in 1921 with Rendezvous Park. Spring Training arrived in Mesa in 1950 with a minor league team and then the Cubs in 1952.
What is it about Cubs fans? Regardless of the venue, regardless of the record, they are out in full force and supporting their team vigorously. It must be something in the agony of defeat that pulls together a culture that remains loyal in that long-time quest for a championship. The Chicago Cubs (notably, their fans!), have set many Spring Training attendance records … 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2009 major league record culminating with 203,105 in 2009 through 19 home games. The newer Salt River Fields has recently broken the record.
Notes – Although all indications were that you could not enter the ballpark for BP, I arrived just after 10:00 AM and was told it was open. Sure enough, the Cubs were taking BP – there was hardly anyone in the stadium and it was great to have easy access to all parts of the stadium except the berm area – it remained closed until the end of BP. Similar to many Spring Training facilities, the Fergie Jenkins Foundation ensured there were several retired MLB players available to sign autographs for charity. In that same area, behind the left field line bleachers, there was a trailer serving Iowa breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches – had to have one – glad I did!
Point of Interest – This is the last year to see the Chicago Cubs call Hohokam their Spring Training home. Their new Spring Training facility is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed in December 2013. It will be 3.3 miles west of Hohokam Park at the crossroads of the AZ101 and AZ202 loops. I look forward to visiting it after it is opened.
The Athletics are Coming! The following statement was posted March 5, 2013 on the Athletic’s Facebook page:
The Oakland Athletics and the City of Mesa have reached a 20-year agreement for the team to train in the East Valley city, beginning in February 2015. The A’s, who also hold two five-year options that could extend the contract to 30 years, will conduct workouts at Fitch Park and play their Spring Training games at Hohokam Stadium, the current home of the Chicago Cubs. Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium are scheduled to undergo $20 million in renovations next year.
As you can see, Hohokam Stadium provides everything you need to enjoy a baseball game and I encourage you to put this destination on your list!
The Baseball PHD visited Hohokam Stadium on Thursday, Feb 28, 2013 … The Cubs hosted the Athletics and the home team was victorious with a 5-3 score and 4,037 fans in attendance.Ballpark address: 1235 North Center Street Mesa, AZ 85201
Friday night I had the opportunity to attend this event for the second time. Like last year, I wanted to support the Team and the Padres Foundation … plus, it is perfect timing to take my best friend to the event for his birthday … The Casual Fan MLB simply LOVES baseball!! Once again, we had a wonderful time.
Initially I was disappointed that it wouldn’t be held on the diamond like in 2012; however, with the cold weather and heavy rains, I was very thankful to be in the warm and dry walls of the San Diego Hall of Champions. And what a fitting venue in which to honor our Padres!
The Casual Fan MLB and I arrived just as the doors opened at 5:30 … considering the price of tickets; we wanted to ensure we enjoyed the hosted reception for as long as possible! In addition, it gave us an opportunity to mingle with fellow bloggers as well as members of the Padres organization – players, coaches, staff, executives, and The Friar. Everyone was friendly and happy that baseball season is just around the corner.
Next on the program was to go upstairs to where dinner would be served – we were assigned to Table #17. Like last year, we were seated with Bob Scanlon and his lovely wife. It was great to chat with them and catch up on the past few months. The Padres players assigned to our table were pitchers: Brad Brach and Brad Boxberger. They are very nice young men who represent the team and the sport very well.
The program included Dick Enberg as the Master of Ceremonies and addresses by Tom Garfinkel, Ron Fowler, Josh Byrnes, and Buddy Black. During Tom’s address he thanked many people that make the Padres a great ballclub and then said “… then there are our fans … and we have two super fans in attendance … Wayne and Rebecca … where are you? Wave your hands so everyone can see you!” We were very humbled that he (a) remembered us and (b) took the time to give us a shout-out.
The Major League Award Winners are as follows:
- Madres Favorite New Padres – Alexi Amarista
- Darrel Akerfelds Bullpen Award (Reliever of the Year) – Luke Gregerson
- Chairman’s Award for Community Service – Will Venable
- Clyde McCullough Pitcher of the Year – Clayton Richard
- Most Valuable Player – Chase Headley
Once the event concluded we used our time to visit with some folks we had yet been able to talk with – such as Buddy Black, Ron Fowler, Jerry Coleman, Dick Enberg, and John Kentera. It was an amazing night and truly got us fired up for Fan Fest, which was the very next morning – bright and early!
Below are a few picture collages from the event.
The Baseball PHD