04/07/2013 01:09 pm ET

The Trail Blazed By Jackie Robinson

When the seasons changed in April 1947, baseball and the country began to change as well.

Jackie Robinson, number 42, made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers -- the sole black man in an all-white league.

"My first thought was, 'Can he help us win the pennant?'" said Ralph Branca, who was a young pitcher with the Dodgers back then. "I didn't care about the color of his skin."

But Branca knew others DID care. He made an effort on Opening Day to stand by him.

"I was just thinking that, you know, somebody had to stand next to him. And it might as well be me, because other guys may have left a space, you know?"

The upcoming movie "42" focuses on Robinson's remarkable rookie season, and his courage in the face of hostility and racism, at a time when schools and the military were segregated, the Civil Rights Bill a distant dream.