GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After he screened the Jackie Robinson biopic ‘42’ on Thursday night, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf had a huge smile on his face.
Reinsdorf, the team’s owner since 1981, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. and was in the stands for Robinson’s first exhibition game with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Ebbots Field. Reinsdorf said the movie elicited many memories and he intends to see it again.
“It brought back incidents I remembered like it was yesterday,” Reinsdorf said. “It brought my youth back to me. … They didn’t show the game I was at. They had him playing his first game Opening Day of ’47. But really his first game was a preseason game. But still the picture, it was powerful.”
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Reinsdorf said actors Harrison Ford, who played Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, and John McGinley, who played announced Red Barber, had their characters “down cold.” He also believed Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Robinson, had everything about his character correct down to the subtleties.
“Everything about Jackie was right,” Reinsdorf said. “The way he jumped back and forth. I loved the rundown thing. I heard Joe Torre say you couldn’t tag him out. He was incredible in rundowns. I saw him get out of a lot of rundowns.”
White Sox reliever Donnie Veal also took in the screening. Veal has read several books on Robinson and has studied his career. But Veal said there was another level of impact to see much of what he had read played out on the big screen.
Perhaps the most impactful scene of the movie, Veal said, showed when Robinson was berated by Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), who stepped onto the field and showered Major League Baseball’s first African American player with repeated insults.
“Seeing a visual is a lot different than reading it and what you put together in your own mind,” Veal said. “That’s a powerful scene. I think it’s only a small portion of what he went through. But just to imagine that expanded over months, years, a career, it’s amazing what he went through. Just to give people a glimpse of that I think is very powerful.”
Reinsdorf recalled how powerful Robinson’s image was amongst his friends in the diverse neighborhood in which he was raised.
“I first became aware, it hit me that there were no black players, one of my black friends, his name was Lester Davis, and I asked him, ‘Who is your favorite player?” ’ Reinsdorf said. “And he said ‘Jackie Robinson.’ He looked at me like I was nuts. That’s when I realized Jackie is the only black player. … Brooklyn was the perfect place for the first black ballplayer. It was a melting pot. But this, I got to see this picture again. This was just awesome.”