TBLA was invited to the advanced showing which included Jackie Robinson's great granddaughter, and Sweet Lou Johnson as the special guest. I was lucky enough for Eric Stephen to be on assignment in San Diego, so I got to attend this event. I'm not much of an event writer, so you'll have to bear with me on this one.
If you couldn't get Don Newcombe, Sweet Lou was the next perfect choice since he is the last remaining Dodger on the payroll who actually played in the Negro Leagues. At 80 years old Sweet Lou is still a man of bountiful energy, who told his story in front of high school baseball players from Dorsey and Crenshaw. I doubt many of them even knew who Lou was before he started talking but they sure knew about him 20 minutes later.
It was an excellent idea for TWC_SoCal to bring in the mostly all African American players from the local high schools. The Los Angeles high school system was a hot bed of major league talent during the sixties with local legends Willie Crawford, and Willie Davis going on to have long Dodger careers. Two of the most talented players to play major league baseball in the 80's, Eric Davis and Daryl Strawberry were just about the last of the great players to come out of our local inner-city high schools.
We were given VIP treatment, reserved sitting in the premium rows, free food, and a goody bag which among other things consisted of a Dodger major league baseball. They had a drawing for an iPad, and Dodger Tickets to the game on Monday. The interns who made sure everyone was seated in the correct places were cute as can be wearing 42 long sleeve shirts along with Brooklyn hats. I wish I'd taken a photo of them. The audience was roughly about 70% African American, and I only mention that because watching a movie where "nigger" is being thrown about, became a tad uncomfortable.
Lucky for the me the movie was enhanced by sitting next to three woman who looked, and acted like they had just walked right of the 1940's. Normally you don't like to hear audience participation during a movie but these ladies enhanced the movie as only they could.
"There you go."
"No you didn't."
As the movie played on I found myself with one ear tilted toward them to gauge their reaction to each of the scenes. One thing we all had in common, we dabbed our eyes at the same time.
This movie is not a home run, but since it is about number 42, I'd call it a steal of home. They got enough things right that I'm not going to quibble with some of the historical lapses. It is a good movie about a great man who had the courage to endure hatred while showing the world he belonged. The movie is uncomfortable but as uncomfortable as it is, I know the reality was much worse. Knowing full well what to expect my skin still crawled with the cracker depictions. It is a good thing that Saint Louis was as far South as the NL went in 1947.
Acting wise I enjoyed most of the characterizations, Chadwick Boseman is solid as Jackie Robinson. John C. McGinley as Red Barber was a delight. Burt Shotton with Max Gail from Barney Miller took weakness to a new level.
If you haven't seen the movie yet, I do suggest every baseball fan take the time to see it. Google Leo Durocher, Ben Chapman, Dixie Walker, Ralph Branca, Burt Shotton, and Pee Wee Reese before you go.
When Major League Baseball retired 42 they made the perfect statement. If you are sentimental at all, you'll get a bit misty eyed the first time you see the number on Jackie.
On Monday all of baseball will celebrate number 42. Baseball doesn't get many things right when it comes to administration, but when they retired number 42 from every team, they hit a home run.
I try not to miss these events as you never know if it will be the last time you will hear Rachel Robinson. I'm not sure when I first saw her at Dodger Stadium but I suspect it was over 30 years ago, but she took my heart and has never let it go.