I just saw “42,” the new movie about Jackie Robinson. Now I’m wondering: Should kids see it?
It’s rated PG-13. That means some parts of the movie may not be suitable for kids younger than 13.
I’ll admit that the film has some bad language, but “42” tells an important story that kids should know and talk about with their parents and grandparents. One more thing: “42” is a terrific baseball movie.
The film tells about the 1946 and 1947 baseball seasons, when Jackie Robinson broke the major league ban on black players.
It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when African Americans were not allowed to play baseball in the major leagues. A few played in the 1880s, but by 1890 team owners had agreed not to hire any African Americans. Instead, they played in what were called the Negro leagues.
In 1946, Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers (the team that later became the Los Angeles Dodgers), was looking for the right person to break the unofficial ban on black players. Rickey knew that this player would have to be talented, because many white people thought African Americans were not good enough to play in the major leagues.
Rickey also knew that the first player to break that barrier would have to have the guts not to fight back when players, coaches and fans called him every awful name imaginable. If Robinson, who wore number 42, had gotten into fights, people would have used it as an excuse to claim that African Americans could not get along with white players.
Rickey, played in “42” by Harrison Ford, was right: When Robinson began playing for the Dodgers in 1947, he was called names by fans and coaches, hit by pitches and left with bloody cuts from the spiked shoes of opposing players. He received death threats and hate mail. Some of his own teammates did not want to play with a black man.
The parts of the movie that show that nasty behavior are hard to watch. But they are a reminder that some people who have monuments and movies made in their honor — Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson, for example — were not loved and admired by everyone when they were alive.
Robinson was a real hero — not just a baseball hero — because he had the courage to stick with what he thought was best for everyone. Time and history proved him right.
“42” is a serious film, but it is also filled with great old baseball stuff. Notice the old ballparks, uniforms and gloves. The film also catches the speed of the game — the fastball under the chin and the line drive to left center.
So talk to your parents about going to see “42.” It’s baseball, it’s history and it’s a very good movie.
Just ignore the bad words.
Fred Bowen is the author of 19 sports books for kids. His latest baseball book, “Perfect Game,” has just been published.