While watching the recent Jackie Robinson movie “42” the other day, I started wondering just how much of the film’s portrayal of Robinson was accurate.
I decided to ask Carl Erskine, the former Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher who was a witness to baseball history.
Erskine, 89, was Robinson’s teammate with the Dodgers from 1948-56.
“I saw ‘42’ twice and overall thought it was a good documentary for accuracy,” said Erskine. “A few things, though …
“Pee Wee Reese, our captain, said he heard about a petition (to not play with Robinson) but never saw one. Also, Pee Wee was quoted as saying ‘If we all wore #42, they wouldn’t know who to shoot at.’ That actually happened in Atlanta, Ga., in a spring exhibition game. The quote came from (Dodgers’ outfielder) Gene Hermanski in a pre-game meeting where the manager read a letter threatening to shoot Jackie if he took the field. The (movie’s) director in an interview said he wanted to use the quote and was aware it wasn’t from Pee Wee.”
I also asked Erskine about the brutal portrayal of former Philadelphia Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman, who comes off in the movie as an insane racist.
“Yes, Chapman was rough and had his team try every dirty way to upset Jackie. However, rules would have prevented Chapman from standing outside the dugout (as portrayed in the movie) yelling at Jackie, but I excused that for emphasis.”
Erskine also said former Dodgers’ General Manager Branch Rickey – played by Harrison Ford in the movie – never would have used the term SOB.
“He never said that in his life,” said Erskine of the very religious Rickey. “His profanity was ‘Judas Priest.’”
Trivia Time – Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Cronin played for the Pirates, Senators and Red Sox during his MLB career (1926-45).
This week’s question – How many no-hitters did Carl Erskine pitch in his MLB career?