42 tells the true tale of ex-Major League Baseball (MLB) player Jackie Robinson, the first African American in the MLB.
Jackie Robinson, a pioneer for African Americans a decade before the Civil Rights Movement, endured harsh backlash from the mass population. He took it all with class and grace, which proved a difficult task for him.
The movie depicts Robinson before his MLB debut as a confrontational person, not one to “turn the other cheek”. Then came Branch Rickey, General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the mastermind behind Robinson’s entry into the Major Leagues.
Despite vehement disapproval from his advisors, Rickey decided it was time the MLB saw an African American player. After deciding to go after Robinson, he called the Negro Leagues star to meet in his office.
“Your enemy will be out in force, but you cannot meet him on his own low ground,” He told his future star. Robinson, who was born in Cairo, Georgia, was used to fighting racism his entire life. “You want a player that doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” Robinson asked.
“No,” Rickey responded. “I want a player who’s got the guts NOT to fight back.” Jackie Robinson obliged and continued on to carry himself as only a special man could.
Shortly after his invitation to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ minor league team, the Montreal Royals, he married Rachel Isum. Isum is a feisty woman who unlike her husband, fought racism head on. She becomes a steady figure in his life, which proves to be extremely important in Jackie’s life.
The movie also dives into the story of Wendell Smith, an African American sportswriter. Each game, as Jackie Robinson dominated on the baseball diamond, Wendell Smith covered it all. The press box was also segregated, so Smith sat in the stands every game, with a typewriter in his lap.
When Robinson was in the minor leagues, it became apparent his talent was more than fit for the major leagues. A petition was started among the Brooklyn Dodgers’ players, saying that they wouldn’t play if Robinson was indeed called up to the team. The team’s then manager, Leo Durocher, was furious when he found out about the petition.
“If Robinson can help us win, then he is going to play on this ballclub,” Durocher screamed in a players’ only meeting. The support of Branch Rickey, Rachel Robinson, Wendell Smith, and Leo Durocher was instrumental in keeping Jackie Robinson going despite the nationwide backlash.
Robinson enters the major leagues with little to no support from his teammates, but soon, they back him. Through the season, the Dodgers have to deal with abuse from opposing teams, hate letters and hotels refusing to house them. Jackie’s teammates fight back, but he doesn’t have that freedom.
When asked what he’d do if pitchers start to throw at his head, he made it simple: “I’ll duck.”
The movie is a great depiction of a legend, an American hero. They avoid going too much into Hollywood exaggeration, but keep the story interesting for all two hours and eight minutes.
The story narrates a great story of the only number to be retired by the MLB: 42.