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Last night, I was privileged to attend a special screening of “42,” the highly-anticipated Warner Bros & Legendary Pictures biopic of the late, great Jackie Robinson, with a special reception for community leaders, hosted in part by Brewers Community Foundation.
The showing, which took place at Mayfair Mall’s AMC Theatres, was one of just three private screenings in the entire country. In addition to Milwaukee, the other screenings took place in Washington D.C. (hosted by Michelle Obama) and in Atlanta, GA (with Hank Aaron in attendance), also last evening.
The movie is scheduled to open in theaters on Friday, April 12, but I’ve got a review for you here, plus details on a play based on Robinson’s life opening in Milwaukee called Jackie and Me.
First, in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the 42 trailer to whet your appetite:
Although the movie is called “42,” referencing Jackie Robinson’s jersey number, this story is not only about Jackie—it’s also about legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball.
Because, in Rickey’s words, “There is more than playing. I wish it meant only hits runs, and errors-only the things they put in the box score. Because…a baseball box score is a democratic thing. It doesn’t tell how big you are, what church you attend, what color you are, or how your father voted in the last election.”
The movie opens in 1945 and chronicles Robinson’s journey from the Negro Leagues team the Kansas City Monarchs to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ AAA Club, the Montreal Royals and finally to his Major League debut on April 15, 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers (a date we now commemorate across MLB as Jackie Robinson Day).
I will warn you that there are a few scenes that are tough to watch—but then you remember that this is not just a fictional movie; it’s something that actually happened less than 70 years ago, and you think about how, if it’s so hard for you to watch, how hard must it have been for Robinson to endure?
That’s the feeling the filmmakers are trying to convey. And they don’t just want you to sympathize with Robinson (although that’s a key theme in the film)—they want to illustrate the type of man that he was, how primarily with help from Rickey, his wife, and a reporter named Wendell Smith, he prevailed in the face of the greatest of adversity and went on to not only break the color barrier, but become the 1947 Rookie of the Year and stolen bases champion, a six-time All-Star, and World Series Champion (1955).
Story aside for a moment, the acting in this film is just superb. Chadwick Boseman, a relatively unknown actor, gives an amazing performance as Jackie Robinson and Nicole Beharie, an actress of similar stature is stunning and gorgeous in her role as his wife, Rachel. And although I will admit that I had my doubts when I heard Harrison Ford was playing Branch Rickey (especially after reading this article), he surprised me with a very believable and powerful portrayal. The other actors in the film, particularly those playing Robinson’s teammates or rivals, also did an excellent job. Whether it was someone lovable who sympathized with Robinson and reached out to him; or someone despicable (and there are plenty), you could tell that each character and line of dialogue was specifically chosen by screenwriter Brian Helgeland and really (excuse the pun) hits home.
One of my favorite people in the story is Pee Wee Reese the Brooklyn Dodgers’ All-Star shortstop, portrayed by Lucas Black. His prowess on the field aside, Reese is also famous for his support of Robinson through the most difficult times.
In the movie he says to Robinson, “Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42. That way they won’t be able to tell us apart.”
It’s a moment of levity and a moment of foreshadowing because, as you’re likely aware, each year on April 15, in an inspiring, league-wide effort, Major League Baseball teams observe Jackie Robinson Day. On this day, all players and on-field personnel wear the number “42,” in honor of his indelible legacy and commemorating the historic date when Baseball truly became our national game. This year, because the Brewers have an off-day on Monday, April 15, we’ll celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on April 16 when the San Francisco Giants come to town.
There’s also another Brewers-Robinson connection: First Stage Children’s Theater will feature the play Jackie and Me at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee. It will be performed April 12 through May 5 and Brewers Community Foundation and Rickie Weeks are serving as sponsors of the production. Tickets can be ordered online at firststage.org.
Now since the Brewers had a game last night, unfortunately none of our players were able to attend the screening. However, in Washington, in addition to the movie’s cast and crew, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was in attendance on his off-day. He tweeted:
What an incredible showing tonight of the movie 42! So moving and just an unbelievable story! He’s a hero to all! #42 twitter.com/Bharper3407/st…
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) April 3, 2013
Likewise, some of the Atlanta Braves spent their off-day seeing the movie as well:
— Chris Johnson (@C_Johnson28) April 2, 2013
Pumped to be at the 42 Movie screening tonight!!! #42Atlanta
— Cory Gearrin (@CoryGearrin) April 2, 2013
Special off day, having a chance to watch the movie “42″. Such an honor to enjoy the story of a legend. #42Atlanta
— Justin Upton (@JUP_8TL) April 2, 2013
I hope you’ll take our recommendations and go and see this amazing film. I can’t wait to hear what you think. Please share your comments/reviews below.
For Brewers fans, it’s been quite the September to remember. Over the last 29 games, the Crew is 23-6 and, so far this month the Crew has gone 14-4, including three-game sweeps against the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Crew is now 4-0-1 over their last 5 road series and has gone 12-5 over the last 17 road games.
During that time, according to the website coolstandings.com, the Brewers chances of making the 2012 Postseason have risen dramatically from .6% on September 1 to 17.5% as of today.
Currently, just one team—the St. Louis Cardinals—is ahead of the Brewers in the race for the second NL Wild Card spot. They lead by only 2.5 games as of the time of this post.
And, of course, there is still plenty of work to be done. The Brewers face a tough four-game set against the Washington Nationals and then a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, both teams that clinched playoff berths yesterday.
However, then we return home for our final six regular season games of the year, three against the Houston Astros (September 28-30) and three against the San Diego Padres (October 1-3).
And, as we know, thanks to you guys, the best fans in baseball, we’ve got a home field advantage at Miller Park that is second to none. The Brewers have always had one of the best home records in baseball. Last season the team set a franchise record with 57 wins at Miller Park. This season, the Brewers are 46-29 at home including winning 19 of their last 22 home games. The Brewers tied a Miller Park record with nine straight wins from August 20 – September 12.
Brewers fans have remained positive this season and maintained that “never say die” attitude. Despite any apparent adversity, we all continue to believe in our team.
In fact, there’s a term for Brewers fans believing in the Crew. It’s something we’ve noticed that has been catching on across various social channels already and we’re jumping on board because, yes, like you, we #BREWLIEVE.
— Curt Hogg (@YouAStupidHogg) September 16, 2012
Oh dang, my bad I gotta get with it…#BREWlieve
— Manny Parra (@MannyParra26) September 13, 2012
Are you starting to #BREWLIEVE?? Brewers win again 9-7 sweeping the Pirates on the backs of Weeks and Ramirez!!!!
— 1250 WSSP (@1250WSSP) September 21, 2012
— Jim Henderson (@JimHenderson51) September 21, 2012
Comeback Crew. #Brewlieve
— Sophia Minnaert (@SophiaMinnaert) September 21, 2012
— Timber Rattlers (@TimberRattlers) September 20, 2012
So, as of now, the Brewers are hanging in there, winning games and doing their part. You can do yours by coming out and showing your support for the team during the final homestand of the season and spreading the #BREWLIEVE message to your friends.
Tweet using the hashtag to tell them why you #BREWLIEVE in the Crew. Share the graphic on Facebook and/or download your I #Brewlieve Facebook Timeline image here.
While no one knows how things will pan out, one thing’s for sure: MLB’s addition of two more Wild Card teams and a single elimination game in each league has certainly added to the excitement of the playoff push.
On Wednesday morning, Commissioner Selig told MLB.com’s Mark Newman, “It’s been amazing. It’s fascinating to watch the different things that have happened. We’ve got great division races, we’ve got a little of everything. You really judge how well we’ve done by the number of teams Labor Day and then post-Labor Day that are still in the hunt. Even I didn’t think we could do this well.”
Keep the faith, Brewers fans! #BREWLIEVE!
-John and Cait
Note: With the second Wild Card format for 2012, the three division winners in each league will await the survivor of a one-game playoff between the Wild Card teams in each league. Both games are slated for Friday, October 5, two days after the end of the regular season. Barring weather disruptions, the Division Series field of four teams in each league will begin the following Saturday and Sunday.
Yesterday marked our seventh annual Negro Leagues Tribute at Miller Park.
As part of the Negro Leagues Tribute, the Brewers wore reproductions of uniforms worn by the Milwaukee Bears, the city’s 1923 representative in the Negro National League. The team played just one season before disbanding but featured some of the game’s most influential men, including Hall-of-Fame player/manager John Preston “Pete” Hill. The Washington Nationals also joined in the celebration by wearing the uniforms of the Homestead Grays, which played in the Negro Leagues from 1912-1950.
As part of our tribute, we also honored two former Negro Leagues players, Porter Reed and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson in a pregame ceremony.
Porter Reed is 90 years old and played as an outfielder with four different teams from 1946-1953–the Detroit Wolves, the Ligon All-Stars, the Omaha Rockets and the Houston Eagles. Porter was known for his speed and strong arm. Prior to his career in the Negro Leagues, he served in the United States Army from 1942-46 and played baseball on the military teams while stationed overseas in Saipan.
“When I was a young man, there wasn’t much to do, but play sports. In the summertime, we played baseball and in the fall, we played football,” Porter told me.
His neighborhood in Muskogee, Oklahoma, though, really influenced his career.
There was a baseball diamond about 60 yards from his house Porter also noted that two men in the neighborhood played for the Kansas City Monarchs, which inspired him to want to play in the Negro Leagues.
Porter told me he doesn’t have one favorite memory of his time, but he enjoyed playing all over the United States, against all of the different Negro Leagues teams. Porter played with and against players like Satchel Paige (more on him in a minute), Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.
It was an honor to speak to Porter, but personally, as a female, I was very excited to have the opportunity to meet and speak with Mamie “Peanut” Johnson. After facing rejection as a team member of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League due to race, Mamie turned a negative into a positive by becoming just one of three women to play in the Negro Leagues alongside the men (the other two were Connie Morgan and Toni Stone). Mamie was a right-handed pitcher and utility player for the Indianapolis Clowns from 1953-55.
“Where I came from in South Carolina, we had had nothing else to do when I was a child. Baseball was all we knew and we made our own baseballs with a stone, some twine and masking tape and that was our baseball. I learned how to play it pretty good when I was about 7 or 8 years old. The more I played, the better I got. The better I got, the more I wanted to play. And it just stuck with me. Baseball was just my thing and I enjoyed it and it was in mind as I got older that that was what I was going to do,” Mamie said.
Mamie moved to New Jersey and then to Washington, D.C. In Washington, D.C., she played sandlot ball with the men.
“One day a gentleman that was an old Negro League ballplayer asked me if I wanted to play pro baseball and I said, ‘Hell yeah! I’m ready. This has been on my mind for years. ‘ I was just at the right place at the right time. He sent me to meet the Clowns.”
Mamie said she went for a tryout that day… and the next day she was on the bus to Spring Training.
Mamie, who compiled a 33-8 record, earned her nickname “Peanut” when Kansas City Monarchs third baseman Hank Baylis taunted her because of her small size.
I had read that Mamie received some advice on her curveball from the legendary pitcher Satchel Paige. When I asked her about this, she confirmed it, telling me:
“I met him and it was such a pleasure. I didn’t realize who he really was, that he was one of the greatest pitchers that ever lived, you know? I didn’t realize it because we were just playing ball and then-hey! It meant so much to me to know that he was that kind, to help me.”
When Mamie was asked if she struck out anyone with that level of notoriety, she said, “‘I struck out a whole lot of fellas” and named Henry “Hank” Aaron, also a former Indianapolis Clown, among them, as well as the Negro Leagues All-Star catcher, Art “Junior” Hamilton (who was honored at Miller Park in 2007).
During her career, Mamie was part of the Clowns’ championship team in 1954. Of winning, “It felt beautiful!” she said.
“”To be able to say you were an equal to some of the best ballplayers that ever picked up the bat….I am proud to say I did it and I did it well!” Mamie exclaimed.
“When you have something that’s in you that you want to do and you get the opportunity to do that, It’s a tremendous feeling and this is how I started playing Negro League Baseball and it was so, so wonderful, I enjoyed it,” she said.
Following her baseball career, Mamie returned to school and became a nurse for over 30 years.
The ceremonies for both Porter and Mamie will continue today, beginning at 1:45 p.m. when they will be inducted into the Yesterday’s Negro League Hall of Fame at the Mother Kathryn Daniels Center located at 3500 W. Mother Daniels Way on the grounds of Milwaukee’s Holy Redeemer Church (COGIC). The event is open to the public.
In addition, the game-worn Milwaukee Bears uniforms from last night’s game will be available for auction on brewers.com starting at noon CT on Wednesday, August 1. The auction will end at 5 p.m. CT on Wednesday, August 15. The proceeds from the auction will go to Brewers Community Foundation to benefit the Yesterday’s Negro League Baseball Players Foundation and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.