The movie “42” tells a story of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who once played for the Kansas City Monarchs. He broke the color barrier with his entry into Major League Baseball. A recent sneak preview of the movie in Kansas City featured an appearance by iconic actor Harrison Ford and a handful of his co-stars.
Robinson: “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?”
Rickey: “No, I want a player who has the guts NOT to fight back!”
That was a scene from “42” with actors Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson) and Harrison Ford (Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey). These character traits they discussed are what made Robinson the “right” player to break the color line in Major League Baseball.
Now that the story is on the silver screen, Linda Paige, the daughter of the late Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, says she had a sense of completeness when she attended the red carpet preview in Kansas City.
"I’m absolutely honored to be here and to know men of that caliber and to hear about them," says Paige. "Now, to see it, it’s truly, truly amazing. It puts all the pieces together that you hear as a kid growing up."
As actor Chadwick Boseman walked the red carpet, fans shouted "Chadwick! Chadwick!"
From the response of the fans at the event, Boseman has thrust himself into the spotlight as an actor. And he's playing the most visible role of his career yet as Jackie Robinson. Sportswriter Joe Posnanski says it’s weighted with responsibility.
"For young people especially, Chadwick Boseman is Jackie Robinson," says Posnanski. "The portrayal that he brings to the movie is a portrayal that people remember as Jackie Robinson. So it’s a huge responsibility, but also what a wonderful privilege to play such a great American character. I know that he embraced that."
Andre Holland plays Wendell Smith, the African-American sportswriter who covered the Negro Leagues. Holland, who’s based in New York, researched Smith at the Baseball Hall of Fame library in Cooperstown.
"I went there and actually pulled from the library and got all of his papers," says Holland. "There’s an enormous collection of all his writing and it was really cool to see."
Bobby Bragan, the Dodgers catcher at the time Robinson broke into the big leagues is played by Derek Phillips. From his experience making the film, Phillips says he was anxious to check out the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, where the Jackie Robinson story is portrayed from his days with the Kansas City Monarchs.
"The Jackie Robinson story is a story of stick-to-it-tiveness, perseverance, of determination in midst of complete and total turmoil," says Bragan.
With the nationwide release of “42”, Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, believes the impact of the movie on its actors and production team will be beneficial for the museum down the road.
"I don’t think you can be part of something as magnanimous as this is and just say, ‘I’m going to walk away from it.’ And that’s it," says Kendrick. "I think this will be a part of you forever. I think all of those guys who are involved in this film will remember this forever. And so will we."
In 1947, the year that Jackie Robinson broke into the big leagues, the Brooklyn Dodgers reached the World Series. Forty-one years after his death, the movie about Robinson’s career has also made Kansas City a winner.
The red carpet preview of '42' was a benefit; the proceeds are going to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Kansas City Sports Commission.