Opening Day: For Love of The Game – ’42’ Edition

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

BaseballsTechnically, the first game of the 2013 Major League Baseball season will be played Sunday night on ESPN, Texas Rangers v. Houston Astros at 8 p.m. ET.

But the "official" Opening Day is Monday, April 1, with the World Champion San Francisco Giants v. Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies v. Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners v. Oakland Athletics, St.Louis Cardinals v. Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Detroit Tigers v. Minnesota Twins.

The 84th All-Star Game will be played at the New York Mets stadium, Citi Field in Queens, New York City on July 16.

Opening Day remains to this day an almost religious experience for
me. It is the one day of the year when every team is tied for first
place and everything is possible. The failures of the past season are
forgotten and forgiven, and the hopes and dreams of every fan are that
"maybe this year our team will win the pennant and go to the World
Series." There is a sense of possibility and hopeful optimism, a sense
of renewal and rebirth with the coming of Opening Day.

Anticipation of Opening Day begins in late winter and grows stronger
with each passing day. To this day, the four sweetest words in the
English language are for me "pitchers and catchers report" to Spring
Training. Childhood memories of playing Little League baseball and
sandlot baseball can be triggered by the faintest scent of fresh cut
grass on a warm spring day, the smell of a sun-warmed leather baseball
glove, and the smell of popcorn and hot dogs wafting from a nearby
vendor's cart.

Despite the many failings of this asterisk* era of baseball, it has
not diminished my love for the game. Nor can anyone ever take from me my
memories of some of baseball's greatest legends who I had the distinct
privilege to see play, or my memories of some of the greatest games ever
played which I can replay over again in my mind as if it were only
yesterday.

Now, this is where I always pay tribute to the movie Field of Dreams in this annual post. But this year we will be treated to a new baseball movie to coincide with Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 throughout MLB — honoring the Dodgers
Hall of Famer who broke baseball's color barrier on that date in 1947. The new biopic film is "42" (Jackie Robinson's retired number) starring Harrison Ford as Dodgers GM Branch Rickey and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. Warner Bros will open 42 nationwide on April 12. (A Midnight showing on Thursday, April 11 is scheduled at Century 20 El Con and Oro Valley Marketplace in Tucson).

42movie posterThe trade magazine Variety has a write-up of "42", WB, Legendary Swing Away With Jackie Robinson Biopic. There is a special showing to benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO where Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945. Harrison Ford and his Jackie Robinson movie, '42,' are coming to KC:

“We make the bold assertion here at the Negro Leagues Museum that
Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier wasn’t just a part of the civil
rights movement,” said Negro Leagues museum president Bob Kendrick. “It
actually signaled the beginning of … the civil rights movement.

“Before
Brown vs. Board. Before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the
bus. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as the late, great Buck O’Neil said,
was only a sophomore at Morehouse College when Robinson signed that
contract. … So for all intents and purposes, this is what started all
the social progress. Baseball.”

Fay Vincent, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball, penned this opinion in advance of the movie. With release of Jackie Robinson movie, don't forget baseball's other black pioneers:

In a few days, the new baseball season and a new baseball-centered
film arrive. The film, “42,” takes its title from the uniform number of
Jackie Robinson and documents his travails and celebrates his
achievements as he left the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in
1947 to become a Brooklyn Dodger and the first black major leaguer.

I have long held the old Negro League ballplayers in special regard
for keeping our game alive during the long years when players of color
were denied the opportunity to play in the major leagues. Some superb
players played only in the Negro Leagues, including Josh Gibson, Cool
Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston and others.

But some were young enough when the gates fell to have been able to
play in the majors. To my good fortune, three former major league stars
who had begun as Negro League players — Larry Doby, Joe Black and Ernie
Banks — became good friends of mine, as did “Slick” Surratt, who
played only in the Negro Leagues, and they had much to tell of their
experiences in segregated America.

I wanted to share their stories, so some 20 years ago these four –
only the ebullient Banks survives — accompanied me as we visited
several colleges to talk to kids about their baseball lives and
especially about the significance of the Negro Leagues.

The number of surviving alumni of the Negro Leagues is now tiny. But
many of their stories have been preserved. I did extended interviews of
many former Negro League players, and the tapes of those interviews are
available at the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.

* * *

As I listened to Larry Doby during those college visits, I recall
being so moved as he spoke of the loneliness, fear and doubt he
experienced in his first days in the major leagues. Softly, he
emphasized the loving support of his wife and of the vital strength he
drew from Bill Veeck, the owner of the Cleveland Indians who had brought
him to the team as the first black in the American League.

That was the experience Jackie shared. One hopes this film captures
what these young players had to accept as this nation suffered through
our own form of Apartheid. Think of what black baseball players have
meant to our game since 1947, when Jackie first played as a Brooklyn
Dodger. Think then of what we would have missed had the color line
survived another 10 or 20 years.

I trust this new film will serve as the reminder of the magnificent
gift Jackie and Larry and all the other black pioneers gave us.

Movie Trailer:

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