Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
A few weeks ago, I compiled a list of my top twenty favorite baseball movies. Everything from Rookie of the Year to The Natural made the list. At the time, I had not yet seen the movie 42. After seeing this film, I now feel bad about my list.
We all know the basic Jackie Robinson story. Not only did he break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, but he was one fine baseball player as well. I’m not going to pull a Paul Harvey and give you “the rest of the story”, but I would like to discuss the movie if you don’t mind.
42 makes a valiant effort at showing us what Jackie Robinson went through when he broke into “white” baseball. I honestly don’t believe that any movie could really show us exactly what happened. The shortcoming with every movie is that the audience can’t feel anything. We can’t feel the high and tight fastball hit the side of someone’s head (or in the wrist…which was what really happened), nor can we feel a player’s spike ripping open someone’s leg at first base. We can’t feel the bat shoot pain up someone’s arms as they smash it against a concrete wall in anger and frustration (which, according to Jackie Robinson’s wife, never happened), nor can we feel the crisp crack of the bat as a triumphant home run is sent over the left field wall. While sitting in the movie theater, we can certainly see and hear these things, but we can never feel them.
Also, as you can see, writers will take some liberties with historical events in order to make for a better cinematic product. I’m fine with this because I understand that movies like this are “based on” actual events. For you dummies out there, that means that some of this crap may not have happened exactly as depicted in this movie. Be reasonable people.
I am not at all suggesting that this movie sold the viewer short and left them regretting their $14 movie ticket (or in my case…$1.25). In fact, this movie did many things right.
For one, 42 did a great job in showing just how widespread racism was in this country by continually bringing it into a majority of the scenes, constantly keeping the viewer on edge and at times nervous for Robinson’s life. This makes the viewer almost tired by the end of the game vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, during which the team’s manager incessantly yells racist stabs at Robinson. This speaks volumes, most of us can barely make it through the scene, and Robinson put up with this kind of treatment for multiple seasons. The man was tougher than I could ever dream of.
As a baseball fan and a bit of a nerd about old stadiums, I thought that this movie did a fantastic job with replicating Ebbets Field, Crosley Field, Shibe Park, the Polo Grounds, and Forbes Field. These were the old cathedrals of baseball, the ones we can only daydream about while looking at old pictures, this movie brings them to life. There were also some scenes that took place in Birmingham, Alabama’s Rickwood Field, which still stands to this day.
Also, as a major uniform nerd, I must say that the uniforms in this movie were absolutely beautiful! I know that not everything was absolutely accurate, but the good folks at Ebbets Field Flannels made everything as close to the original as possible. If you really want to read more about this sort of thing, feel free to google “uniwatch…42 review” and click on the first two links. You will find way more than you ever wanted to know about uniforms.
Ultimately, this movie blew me away! I would say that it definitely ranks up there in my top ten favorite baseball movies, maybe even my top five. All in all, I’m glad to finally see one of baseball’s most important stories told in a way that does it justice.