Jackie Robinson, “42”, and Texas

by Melvin Edwards
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Jackie Robinson had two Texas connections. First, he was court martialed while serving in Fort Hood in Killeen. (He wasjackie-R acquitted, though admittedly “guilty” of refusing to give up his seat on the military bus. He was “Rosa Parks” 10 years before she was.) A couple of years later, he served as the basketball coach at Sam Huston College — now part of Huston-Tillotson University — in Austin.
 
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The first of those Texas connections was barely mentioned in the current movie “42” and the second one wasn’t relevant. Though subtitle of the movie is “The Story of Jackie Robinson,” the entire story of this amazing American would take a series of movies to cover. This one covers just more than Robinson’s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
 
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I had the privilege of seeing “42” about two weeks before it was released to the general public. The producers had the good sense to invite a number of local youth baseball leagues to screen the movie, so most of the theater was filled with teenage baseball players of all races. This, alone, made the movie a worthwhile project.
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In the film, Brooklyn general manager Branch Rickey is seeking to add the first black player to a Major League roster and knows it has to be the right player. He wants someone with a college background, a sparkling past, and a Christian belief system. As Harrison Ford’s Rickey character says in the movie: “I’m a Methodist, Robinson is a Methodist, and God is a Methodist.” Theology aside, Rickey’s Christianity heavily influenced his decisions and it was nice to see that portrayed in the movie. feature_jackie
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After Robinson comes in to meet Rickey and to find out the parameters of his responses to the racism he’s sure to face, Robinson assures his new boss that he can handle the task. In one harrowing scene in the movie, the audience is left wondering how he was able to do that.
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Robinson’s wife is played with a quiet grace and strength by Nicole Beharie, but Chadwick Boseman in the lead role steals the show as a man whose restraint won over his enemies and encouraged his few friends to demonstrate their support in public. The famous occasion of teammate’s Pee Wee Reese’s embrace of Robinson on the field is a standout scene in the movie.
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Overall, I’d give this movie high marks for its accuracy and storytelling. I would slightly downgrade the final grade because I thought the antagonists were such buffoons that they could not be seen as dangerous as they really were. Here, they come across as people to be laughed at and dismissed. The world Robinson inhabited meant those racists could carry out any of the hundreds of threats they mailed to him during that season. Luckily for history, that was not case.
 
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You do not have to be a baseball fan to enjoy or understand this movie. It is a simple one of an American hero paving the way and paying the price.
 
 
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Melvin Edwards is a native son of Texas who is the proud father of three daughters and one son. He is a former staff member for our current governor, Rick Perry. He also served as as a speechwriter and legislative liason for our current Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson who is currently running for Lt. Governor. Unfortunately, Melvin decided to take a job in the greater Washington DC area and has been regretting that decision ever since. He is a homesick Texan in every sense!
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