Monthly Archives: January 2013

Baseball Wasn’t Always for Everyone

ImageIt’s Jackie Robinson’s birthday (1919-1972).  As an African-American, he broke the color barrier in major league baseball when he signed on to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

In his memory, we’re going to watch The Jackie Robinson Story this weekend!  Released in 1950, it stars Jackie Robinson as himself showing his start in the Negro Leagues, his relationship with his wife, and ending up in the major leagues, with help from Dodger president Branch Rickey.  I watched it a while ago, and don’t remember much of it, so I’m happy to watch it again with my daughters.

It’s too bad the new Jackie Robinson movie, 42, wont be released until April.  But, I suppose a sports movie wont have a very good box office opening on Super Bowl weekend.  42 stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, and Harrison Ford as Dodger president Branch Rickey.

What other baseball movies feature this segregation issue?   Off the top of my head, I came up with these:

A League of Their Own (1992).  During WWII, women’s baseball leagues fill in the gap left by pro baseball players heading off to war.  Women are happy to have the chance to prove that they can play ball, too.  In one scene, a ball is hit out of bounds.  Two African-American ladies in denim overalls and ball caps are there to toss it back to Geena Davis, who plays the pitcher.  The throw is strong and accurate, and Geena’s character acknowledges the talent of the girl.  It’s a small moment, not even credited on IMDB, but beautiful in how it makes the point that white girls aren’t the only ones who can play baseball.

The Perfect Game (2009).  In 1957, a poor little league team from Monterey, Mexico amazes everyone by winning the American Little League World Series.  A great family movie for anyone who likes stories of the underdog who comes out on top.  At one point the team is eating in a Texas diner at the same time as another team.  One boy on that team is African-American, and is not eating with his team, but off by himself.  The Mexican pitcher, played by 14-year-old Jansen Panettiere (little brother of Hayden), invites the outcast player to eat with him, and they compare Mexican and Southern ways to eat hot sauce.

The Sandlot (1993).  A 1960’s summer spent playing baseball with the neighborhood boys.  Fun movie, but has a bit more language than necessary for a kid-friendly film.  James Earl Jones plays the mysterious neighbor with the evil dog.  When Jones is finally seen, we discover he played in the Negro Leagues.

Can you think of any other baseball movies that depict African-American segregation?

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