'42' will bring Robinson's story to new generation
I had so much to do the other day, but it didn't matter. Once I began watching "The Jackie Robinson Story," a few seconds went by, then a couple of minutes and then I was hooked through the end.
Let's see. That makes it either the fourth or the 27th time I've seen that movie, and it never gets old.
I'm in this Jackie Robinson mindset these days.
In other words, the weekend that proceeds April 15 can't arrive quickly enough, and not just because it will mark the yearly time that Major League Baseball commemorates the anniversary of Robinson breaking the game's color barrier in 1947.
It's about one number -- 42. That was Robinson's number for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and that also is the succinct-yet-powerful title of the major motion picture by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures that will debut everywhere on April 12 about Robinson's story.
Can't wait. The trailers are awesome.
There was that brief trailer released last September. With ominous music in the background, it began with Chadwick Boseman as Robinson walking slowly yet steadily by himself through a long and dark tunnel toward a glimmer of light in the dugout.
Talk about symbolism.
Before Boseman/Robinson reaches the dugout, you hear a voice say, "I don't know who he is or where he is, but he's coming."
Now flashback to that unfathomable era of pre-April 15, 1947, when baseball was only white. The clock was ticking toward somebody to change the game's complexion. It's just that the "who," the "where" and definitely the "when" were only known to Dodgers executive Branch Rickey, who eventually attached the destiny of his team, baseball and society as a whole to the courageous spirit of Robinson.
Harrison Ford plays Rickey in the movie.
While Ford is a Hollywood legend ("Indiana Jones," "Star Wars," "Patriot Games," etc.), Boseman is relatively unknown. Even so, they both are more than capable in "42" of providing what the caption says in the first trailer: "The true story of an American Legend."
How's this for symmetry -- either accidental or on purpose? In "The Jackie Robinson Story," which actually features Robinson playing himself for the 1950 movie, the narrator begins by saying, "This is a story of a boy and his dream. But more than that, it's a story of an American boy and a dream that is truly American."
You can't get more American than the struggles and the successes of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, who was born in segregated Cairo, Ga., on Jan. 31, 1919, and spent the bulk of his youth in Pasadena, Calif., where racism just took a different form during those days.
Robinson overcame everything. In fact, he foreshadowed events to come by prospering in high school for otherwise all white teams in football, basketball, track, baseball and tennis.
Later, at both Pasadena Junior College and UCLA, Robinson became powerful on and off the playing fields. Not only did he continue as a multi-sport star in predominately white settings, but he also evolved into a visible force for social causes.
The latter continued into Robinson's military career. For one, he was Rosa Parks before Rosa Parks.
On July 6, 1944, while serving as an Army lieutenant in Fort Hood, Texas, Robinson refused the order of a white bus driver to move to the back of what supposedly was a non-segregated Army bus. He eventually faced possible jail time, and a TNT movie made in 1990 called "The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson" showcased the situation. After a few charges were brought against Robinson, he was acquitted by the court.
Three years later, Robinson experienced much worse than that around the Major Leagues. The difference between that first trailer for "42" and the reality of Robinson's initial horrors in baseball was this: He spent game after game walking slowly yet steadily down a long and dark tunnel toward what he hoped was a glimmer of light in the dugout.
There often was more darkness.
Which brings us to the second trailer for "42." It was released last month, and it was twice as long, because it featured the conflict between Robinson and fans, opposing teams and even teammates.
That second trailer opens with a shot of New York City after dark, and you hear Jay-Z's song called "Brooklyn Go Hard." Among the song's lyrics, which are heard in the second trailer: "I father, I Brooklyn Dodger them/I jack, I rob, I sin/Aw man, I'm Jackie Robinson/Except when I run base, I dodge the pen."
Whatever that means.
If nothing else, it means "42" will reach generations that were decades from existing even when Robinson died from heart issues and diabetes at 53 on Oct. 24, 1972.
In contrast, "The Jackie Robinson Story" was made before I was born, but I still enjoy it. So do many. Although nobody ever will confuse it with "Gone With The Wind," it is a classic, because it has the feel of those other black-and-white baseball movies of that era -- ranging from "The Pride of the Yankees" to "The Stratton Story."
Those types of movies have a way of drawing your average sports fan in general and baseball fan in particular into watching, no matter how predictable the plot or corny the acting.
That said, "The Jackie Robinson Story" has the great Ruby Dee as Rachel Robinson and Jackie as Jackie.
Mostly, it has Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson as a riveting storyline for the ages.
The latest telling of that story is just weeks away.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.