Friday, 26 July 2013 08:55

42: A Lesson to Be Learned for Everyone

By Damian Fantauzzi | Sports

If you haven’t seen the movie “42”, which is about Jackie Robinson breaking the race barrier in Major League Baseball by being the first African American in the majors, then you have to make it your business to do so.

Branch Rickey, who was the general manager and president of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1942 until 1950, signed Robinson to play for the “Bums” in 1945. This is a movie that parents need to have their children see. This true story isn’t just about baseball, Jackie Robinson and Mr. Rickey. It’s about the beginning of equal rights and integration, in the sport that defines America.

A brief history: at the time when Rickey was in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, he had a part in many different managerial roles for 25 years. As a Cardinal figurehead, he was one of the people responsible for the formation of minor league programs that became what we know as the “farm system,” a league that would cultivate future major league players. He also started a new league for black players, who had been fully excluded from organized baseball beyond the various segregated leagues (there are no records showing that Rickey’s new league ever played any games). Rickey’s overriding idea was to scout black baseball players until he found just the one to bring about the desegregation of the major leagues.

Rickey found the right player in October 1945, and it was Jackie Robinson, an infielder. He signed Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, later saying, “There was never a man in the game who could put mind and muscle together quicker than Jackie Robinson.”

After playing with the Dodgers’ minor league organization, the Montreal Royals, Robinson made his historical debut in Major League Baseball in 1947, breaking the so-called color barrier in baseball. Robinson led the Dodgers to the National League pennant in his first season with the team and earned the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947. In 1949, he was the NL’s Most Valuable Player. By 1952 there were 150 black players in organized baseball. Soon after that, the Negro Leagues disbanded because many of their marquee players had been brought up into the newly desegregated major leagues. 

The movie “42” focuses on the first few years of the Rickey/Robinson legacy. The film is on the right page when it comes to the bigotry that Robinson faced as he shattered the segregation window of professional sports.

Everyone should see this movie because it puts the viewer in the shoes of both characters. Mainly, it shows how Robinson felt, being the only black player in the big leagues.

Also, it makes you realize that we need more people like Branch Rickey, who saw that change is brought about by people who believe they can make change work.

There are so many people of fame who have had a profound effect on the way we live and see life today. Some of these people were, or are, people like you and me. They were driven by a need to right the wrong and became famous, inconspicuously, without the intention of immortal fame.

I think kids need to see Robinson’s experience because of the way he was treated by the fans, some of his teammates and the opposition just because of his color. Some felt he didn’t belong in the majors due to the stigma of his skin color. The present-day youth of our nation can compare current times bias to what went on in the ’40s and ’50s and how it is still in the process as a movement in racial progress.

There are many stories similar to this that are evolving and maybe there is a need for it to be addressed by adults, parents, teachers, and how it relates to the modern day of our social routine. A good example is that we have witnessed in the 21st century, our first African American president, Barack Obama.

As a former educator, I feel there needs to be more done in the classroom for understanding and accepting diversity. We, as a nation, have become more of a melting pot of race and ethnicity then ever before. It’s not going to go away, so it’s time to educate us all.

I saw a photo on Facebook. There were two eggs. One was white and one was brown. There was an adjacent picture of the same two eggs and they were cracked open and broken. Both interiors of the inside of the eggs were the same (the point of emphasis) — they had yokes and egg whites and, if you removed the shells you wouldn’t know which yoke came from which egg. A simple lesson that can hit home for us all. 

If you haven’t been insulted by someone because of your heritage or ethnicity, then you have no idea what it feels like. I won’t go into much more detail, but I experienced some bigotry because of my Italian heritage, years ago. It was unsettling and I never forgot how it made me feel. Does it really matter what your nationality is or what color skin you have? Color me neutral, but understand this: Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey are American hero icons. I feel strongly that it was all for the cause of humanity. Accepting that on the inside of all colored eggs there is a yoke with egg white and when the shells are broken, it all looks the same.

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