Sunday, September 15, 2013

42: Late to the Party

I imagine I am one of the few baseball fans to have finally watched "42 - The Jackie Robinson Story." There are a ton of baseball movies I want to see, and I've seen more than my fair share. My favorites are those based on true events (except in the case of "Major League" and "Field of Dreams").  "42" is now counted among my all-time favorite baseball movies.

I realize there were creative liberties taken in the making of the movie, but I can also imagine that the reality of what Jackie and his family, friends, and teammates endured is much nastier. Much nastier.

There is no doubt that what Branch Rickey saw was dollar signs when he decided to seek out a black baseball player. The speech about Jackie helping Branch "love the game again" may or may not have really happened (I didn't check), but either way, it was essentially hogwash.

But, regardless of the reason "why" he did it, what stands the test of time and will forever be recorded in history books long after such a thing is essentially a footnote in American history, is that he DID IT. Would someone have eventually come along and done it? We can't but think so. However, we don't have to think about such things. Branch Rickey, for all the wheelings and dealings and money being made, single-handedly changed the racial make-up of professional Major League Baseball.

I cannot imagine what Jackie and Rachel went through. But, if the movie is even a fraction of the guts and gumption those two had, I know that Jackie was the right man at the right time.

People are looked at as heroes for different reasons: fighting for what others cannot, sacrificing where others cannot, rising above obstacles and emerging where others might have failed.  Jackie was "playing baseball." He helped change the makeup of professional sports everywhere. He laid a path where only weeds and thistle and racism and bigotry had been before.

In many ways, that path is still a path. Sure, it might be a little wider now, a little more worn and solid, but America still has a long way to go in its fight to overcome its own past.  But, we would not be where we are had it not been for one man's willingness to do what was asked: Play Baseball.

*I am writing this at 3:30am after watching the movie. If something takes a decided leap in logic or coherence, that's why.

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