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Milwaukee Middle School Students Treated to Screening of “42,” Visit From Commissioner Selig and Sharon Robinson

Today, I was fortunate enough to join a group of over 150 students from Roosevelt Middle School in Milwaukee at the Marcus North Shore Cinema.  We enjoyed to a private screening of the movie “42” hosted by Commissioner Bud Selig, Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson and the Milwaukee Brewers.  As if seeing the movie by itself wasn’t enough of a treat, the students also participated in a Q&A session with Selig and Robinson after the movie.

"42" was screened today for Roosevelt Middle School students at the Marcus North Shore Cinema.

“42” was screened today for Roosevelt Middle School students at the Marcus North Shore Cinema.

It was the first time I saw the movie and I thought it was great.  Cait reviewed the movie last week and I urge you to read her review, see the movie and read what Robinson and Selig had to say today.  Seeing the movie and then hearing Selig and Robinson talk about the deeper teachings of the story and the legacy of Jackie Robinson made the experience extremely memorable.

Robinson and Selig touched on a variety of topics including the state of diversity in the game of baseball today, the movie “42” itself, the legacy Jackie Robinson left us and the importance of middle school years as it relates to the rest of education.

“The movie covers years 1946 and 1947 so you really don’t see him (Jackie) growing up, or the role his mother played in his life,” Sharon Robinson said.  “My father was very religious and that was a big source of strength for him.  He was a praying man.  In the trailer, you see Jackie Robinson coming from the back and he takes a step back.  Some people interpreted that as a hesitation, that he was taking a step back, that he has this big moment and is stepping back.  In the movie, it is shot from the front and you see him praying.  He is stepping back and saying his prayer before he goes on the field.”

MPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton, Sharon Robinson and Commissioner Selig.

MPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton, Sharon Robinson and Commissioner Selig.

There have been other movies made and stories told about the life of Jackie Robinson, but Sharon said “42” captures the story of her father better than any other.

“I saw the film that was made in 1950, “The Jackie Robinson Story,” and I always hated that movie.  I liked seeing my

father, but I didn’t like how he was portrayed.  I met with the producers of “42,” I wanted to make sure that image of my father was kind of erased.

My favorite (version of Jackie Robinson’s story) is “42” because what you see are relationships.  You see the strength of the relationship between Jackie and Rachel, critical to his success.  You see the relationship between Jackie and Branch, also critical to his success.  You see the relationship between the boy and his father (at the game in Cincinnati).  That showed us you can have a loving parent, but unfortunately, they can teach you to hate or you can be around friends of yours who you trust and they can get you in trouble if you follow them at the wrong moment.”

Dr. Floyd Williams, principal of Roosevelt Middle School and Sharon Robinson with staff and students.

Dr. Floyd Williams, principal of Roosevelt Middle School and Sharon Robinson with staff and students.

Sharon herself is an author and has written a number of books on her father and her family life that expands on the story the movie gave.

“My book, “Jackie Robinson American Hero” allows everyone to get a little more to the story about his childhood and his years after baseball and about his family and about the Jackie Robinson Foundation.  You have two hours in a film and I think they did a great job of keeping the film intense, moving quickly and covering a very important period of his life.”

Each student today received a copy of “Jackie Robinson American Hero.”

Sharon Robinson's powerful words made me appreciate Jackie Robinson even more, I really enjoyed today's events.

Sharon Robinson’s powerful words made me appreciate Jackie Robinson even more, I really enjoyed today’s events.

Selig has taken many steps in his tenure as Commissioner to keep the legacy and dreams of Jackie Robinson alive.  From having players honor Robinson by wearing his #42 on April 15 each year, to retiring #42 in every MLB stadium, to working on diversifying the game on and off the field to establishing programs like the R.B.I. program—Selig wants to be sure the legacy of Robinson is never forgotten in baseball.  When asked what Jackie Robinson would think about diversity in the game today, he said steps have been made in the right direction, but we can do better.

“Jackie said in Cincinnati at the World Series just ten days before he passed away that he wanted to look over to the third base dugout and see an African-American manager and he can do that today.  We have done well, but we can do better and that is what I think he would say.  Given where we were 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago, we are in a better place, but we need to do better.  We are working on a lot of things.  It’s an ongoing problem, but I’m proud of baseball.  I regard baseball as a social institution and just the fact that baseball could produce what this movie produced makes me proud.  There is work to be done and we will do it.”

Selig also said how Robinson was not only important to just the history of baseball, he was important to the history of our country.

“I read a quote today from Dr. Martin Luther King that he said in 1962 he couldn’t have done what he did for the Civil Rights movement without Jackie Robinson.  That tells you how important in history that Jackie Robinson really is,” said Selig.

Commissioner Selig announced in 1997 that Jackie Robinson's #42 will be retired by every team.

Commissioner Selig announced in 1997 that Jackie Robinson’s #42 will be retired by every team.

In the movie, we saw Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey make the difficult decision to sign Jackie Robinson.  He knew the decision wouldn’t be popular with everyone, but he knew it was the right decision.  As commissioner, Selig has also been in position to make difficult decisions, but likes to use Rickey’s way of thinking as an example.

“Branch Rickey was so heroic in all of this.  He did this on his own and because it was right.  I happened to be in Chicago when Jackie played his first game at Wrigley Field and I will never forget it, it was a really moving experience.  When you are in a position of responsibility, I always feel that I have to do what is in the best interest of baseball.  It might be unpopular, it might make others mad, but if you know you are doing the right thing, you do it.  That is what Branch Rickey did and he set a great example.  That is the example I hope I set for future generations.  You have got to do what you think is right and if it isn’t popular, so be it.  Just go do it.”

The students listened attentively to the post-movie discussion and Sharon Robinson left the sixth, seventh and eighth graders with a very important piece of advice about the stage of life they are experiencing.

“Take education seriously, especially at this age, Robinson said.  “Be prepared, feel good about yourself, do well at school and make a contribution at home.  If you do this now, when you get to high school, then you will be ready to be a good student.  Be a leader, not a follower.  If you have integrity, you know what you believe in and you don’t let someone sway you in another direction.  Integrity is an important value to develop now as you will use it the rest of your lives.”

The integrity that Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey had as people was obviously passed down to Sharon Robinson and Bud Selig, hopefully today, that important virtue will be passed on to another generation.

Thank you to the Brewers Community Foundation, City Year, Marcus Cinemas, Major League Baseball, Commissioner Selig, Sharon Robinson and the students of Roosevelt Middle School for making today very special.

–JOHN

johnandcait@brewers.com

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