The “misdirection” of the film should not keep people from seeing it. It’s too of an important piece of history to let a bit of cinematic overplay spoil the overall effect. People, especially those too young to understand the Jim Crow era, should see it. Hopefully it will motivate those viewers who didn’t have a clue to the treatment of black ballplayers to research the matter further.
There are two excellent books that focus on Jackie Robinson and the age of integration. The first is “Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season,” by Jonathan Eig. It’s an in-depth look at the barriers Robinson was forced to overcome to survive his indoctrination into Major League Baseball.
The second is the best book I’ve read on the subject. It’s called “Baseball Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy,” and was written by Jules Tygiel. It covers the whole era of integration from the early attempts to integrate the game to the last team to add an African-American player. It wasn’t until 1959 that the Boston Red Sox became the last team to integrate. Even then, segregation was still widespread at spring training sites.
Despite its cinematic flaws, “42” is an important film that everyone should see. It’s not so much a baseball film as it is a piece of American history. Fighting racism is an ongoing process and the movie provides an important benchmark to see how far we’ve come and need to go.
David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.