Once in a while Hollywood produces a film that I believe is a five-star movie in my definition of stars. It entertains, enlightens, teaches, excites and motivates. That is exactly what the movie 42 on the life of Jackie Robinson did to my partner and me. Both of us left the theater lifted in knowing a little more details about what Jackie Robinson went through beyond what we knew from school textbooks.
That is the magic of film -- it can bring April 1947 to the present. It can make you feel what Jackie must have felt as he walked that long corridor from the clubhouse to the Ebbets Field baseball diamond for the first time wearing the uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers #42 as the first black baseball player in history.
One thing is to read about the history and understand the trials and tribulations that Jackie had to go through to survive as baseball's first black player and the other is to see it on the big screen as an reenactment of history. There were several scenes where you have to question your own values and wonder if you could have been as strong as Jackie Robinson and remained quiet to the insults and abuses that he went through.
The acting of Chadwick A. Boseman as Jackie Robinson was great and one would never imagine that he never played baseball in real life. He played Jackie Robinson on and off the field to a level that had the audience captivated. He was the star and he carried the movie on his back like a clean up hitter. Harrison Ford played Branch Rickey, who made the brave decision that made history when he signed Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers, breaking baseball's color barrier to perfection. Nichole Beharie who played the role of Rachel Robinson rounded out the trio of movie stars that gave the film life outside of the screen.
I highly recommend the movie to everyone, baseball and non-baseball fan alike.
However, after coming down from the excitement of watching a great baseball movie about the man who broke the color barrier one has to ask why are there not more black players in the majors today? According to Major League Baseball, 8.5 percent of the 2013 opening day rosters were black. That is approximately 65 players.
One would expect to have many more blacks playing baseball. According to the Player Diversity Report, while the number of black players has gone down from its height of 19 percent in 1995, the number of Latinos has risen from 13 percent in 1990 to 28 percent in 2012. Though that sounds like a major increase for Latinos, if you were to take out all foreign-born Latinos (majority coming from Dominican Republic and Venezuela) the number of U.S. Latinos would be below the 8 percent of the Black players.
So while we celebrate a great movie about the history of adding some color to the game of baseball, Major League Baseball needs to look at ways to increase the number of U.S. born blacks and Latinos to a game that is supposed to be as American as apple pie. I personally would like to see more people of color from our own urban communities and hopefully I can see this before the premier of a movie of #21, Roberto Clemente.