Friday, April 19, 2013

Dealing with Giants (Yes I realize the Pun)

We saw 42 yesterday.   I enjoyed the movie immensely.   The two main characters in the movie (Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey) are heroic figures.   This kind of movie must be hard to make because so much has already been written about both.   The earlier biopic (as I noted in a post anticipating 42) is not great except for the extended scenes with Robinson in them.

Rickey's baseball career ran almost 60 years.  His playing and managing career was nothing to write home about.   He had a fight with Judge Landis while in St. Louis on the the development of what would later be one of his hallmarks - the farm system.  

But he showed his real talent when he moved up to the Dodger organization in 1942.  He developed the Dodger farm system. (By then Landis could not beef.)  And then started to think about desegregating baseball.    From a discussion in the Ken Burns documentary on Baseball, Red Barber Rickey came to the decision both on idealism and business sense.

What annoyed me most about the most recent owners of the Dodgers (the McCourts) is that they had no sense of the history of the Dodger franchise.   Indeed, baseball is a business (which McCourt did not understand either) but it is also more than that.   Rickey and owners like the Walter O'Malley.   A good idea for another baseball picture would be about the relationship between O'Malley and Rickey - which was not a bed of roses.

Robinson was a first, but he was also a pretty good ball player.  In his year with the Montreal Royals he hit .349.   Over the 10 years he played for the Dodgers he hit .311 with a .409 on base percentage.  He averaged 86 RBIs a season.    I became a Dodger fan during Robinson's career.  They won several pennants and then in 1955 won the World Series against the Yankees.

The story of Robinson is one that should be repeated.   It represents some of the best characteristics of the American character.   The two
main characters understood the importance of what they were doing.   Many of the supporting characters, like Pee Wee Reese, understood the importance of the moment.

One side note which made the movie even better, John McGinley does a superb role as Red Barber.   Barber preceded Vin Scully in the broadcast booth of the Dodgers.   A lot of the phrases of baseball ("can of corn", "rhubarb") came from his fertile mind.   McGinley catches Barber almost perfectly.

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