“Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42, so they won’t tell us apart.”
This last weekend, Alex & I went to see the movie “42”. Going into it, I knew the basics of the story, like many of us do. Jackie Robinson was a great baseball player. He first black major league baseball in the modern area (i.e. after 1900). I had an inkling of what he went through, but really couldn’t picture it fully in my mind. And Alex, of course, had no clue who the man was aside from “I think he was a pretty good ball player.”
All in all, the movie was very good. 4 out of 4 on the Worthams’ rating scale. For those with young children, I will warn you that a number of scenes dealing with the abuse that Ben Chapman (manager of the Philadelphia Phillies) dealt out to Robinson.
As I watched the movie, my thoughts often went back to times with my Grandpa – George Whitlock. Grandpa shared his love of the game of baseball with me from a young age. We would watch the Tigers and the Cubs quite a bit. He would, when I still thought it was cool and before Grandpa’s heart started to tire out, throw the ball around with me and pitch to me so I could hit.
I know there were times he tried to tell me a little of what it was like for him, growing up in Tennessee. Unfortunately, partially because I was a kid and didn’t pay hardly any attention and partially because my naive little mind couldn’t comprehend the level of racism that exists then (and in some ways still does today).
All I knew was that Grandpa loved baseball and he would never miss a game when he could. I wonder if he wanted to be a baseball player when he was younger? Perhaps I’ll get a chance to ask him someday … when I see him again.
I have a feeling that my Grandpa would’ve enjoyed the movie at least as much as I did. I do hope that you’ll go out and see it as well and help celebrate a man whose number everyone in baseball will be wearing today on the anniversary of his first game in the Big Leagues. Go out and celebrate what it took to advance baseball so it can be enjoyed by people of all races, creeds, and colors (and much more than that).
If baseball can change and become diverse and tolerant of all human beings, then so can we Americans … someday … hopefully soon.