My last post was about the movies, so I wasn't expecting to make this one about them as well. However, it couldn't be helped.
I recently went with my dad and my sons to see 42 in the theater. For my dad, it was a look back at his childhood. He’s old enough to remember when Jackie Robinson broke into the league. For my kids, it was a chance to watch a baseball movie. Both of them love baseball and play in rec leagues. My younger son even wears 42 on his jersey and has me read to him from *Branch Rickey’s Little Blue Book.
I was nervous about taking my kids to see the movie. I knew my teenager could handle the language, but worried it would shock my 11-y.o. A few years ago, I declined to take my kids to another sports movie, Glory Road (the story of Texas Western's NCAA Championship, with a primarily African American team.) One of the harshest scenes in the movie is when the Dodgers play in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia manager lets loose every racial epithet possible, trying to goad Robinson into losing his temper. Robinson holds it, finally letting loose in the player's tunnel underneath the stadium, where no one can see him.
However, I was unprepared for the scene my 11 y.o. eventually questioned me about after we returned home. In the scene where the Dodgers makes their first trip to Cincinnati, there was a kid in the stands that wanted to see Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese, a major leaguer that grew up in a town near Cincinnati. When the Dodgers take the field, the kid's father starts hurling racial insults at Robinson, and then the young boy copies them. My son couldn’t fathom why the kid was saying what he did. I explained to my son that racism is learned. The attitude of treating someone differently due to the color of their skin is something you're not born with. The Cincinnati scene in the movie ends with Reese putting his arm around Robinson in front of everyone in the sold out stadium. In real life, this is a scene that no one can confirm but, like Babe's fabled "called shot," lives on in baseball lore.
There will never be another Jackie Robinson.
Hopefully, we've passed the day where one is needed.
* Branch Rickey was the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the person who brought Jackie Robinson to the major leagues.