KEY PLOT POINTSBased only on what I have seen in the trailers and the cast list (found on imdb) it appears that there will be a few key focuses of the movie.
- Jackie's life leading up to his signing with the Dodgers organization, his relationship with his wife Rachel, his relationship with Clyde Sukeforth (the scout who brought Jackie to Brooklyn) and his relationship with Branch Rickey (the Dodgers owner who decided to break the color barrier).
- His 1946 season with the Dodgers farm team in Montreal, his relationship with his first manager, Clay Hopper, his acceptance by the Canadian fans and his fight to deal with the resistance of the white players and fans in the minor league.
- A petition circulated by many of the Southern players (and some non southerners) on the Dodgers 1947 team asking Branch Rickey not to bring Jackie to the majors. The petition, started by Outfielder Dixie Walker and signed by most of the southern players, as well as a few northerners, has become a controversy in the study of Jackie Robinson. The petition has never been seen and some of the players accused of signing it say it never existed and several who claim it did exist say they never signed it. In this storyline look for Pee Wee Reese and Pete Reiser, the two Dodgers stars, to refuse to sign it.
- The Dodgers first game of the 1947 season against the Boston Braves.
- The Dodgers first and second series against the St. Louis Cardinals where Enos Slaughter spiked Jackie, Joe Garagiola argued with Jackie and Stan Musial calmed Jackie down.
- The Dodgers first series in Philadelphia where the Phillies, led by manager Ben Chapman, brutally taunted Jackie. This was one of the first times that the team rallied in his support. The reaction of the Dodgers and several others nearly cost Chapman his job.
- The Dodgers series against the Pirates where Fritz Ostermuller threw at Jackie's head, Hank Greenberg showed strong support for Jackie and Kirby Higbe threw at Pee Wee Reese's head.
- The eventual acceptance and support of Jackie's teammates and Jackie's success in the league.
CHARACTERSFollowing is a list of characters you will see in the move broken into five categories: 1. Jackie and his family, 2. Dodgers Management and Personnel, 3. Dodgers Players, 4. Other league players and personnel and 5. Individuals not listed but likely to appear in the film:
JACKIE AND HIS FAMILY
Obviously Jackie Robinson is the focal point of the movie and one of the most recognizable players in the history of the game. There will be many posts of Jackie to come (and some that have already mentioned him) but there are a few key life points that will obviously be important to know. Jackie was born January 31, 1919 in Cairo, GA. His mother moved the family when Jackie was very young to live with her brother and his family in Pasadena, CA. Jackie originally attended Pasadena Community College then went on to become a lettered athlete in baseball, basketball, track and All-American football star at UCLA and was the first student at the school to letter in four sports in the same year. Jack left UCLA just before graduation and was hoping to work towards being an Athletic Director. He went on to play professional football (not in the NFL) and ended up playing in Hawaii. As he was returning from Hawaii after the season the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Jack enlisted in the army and was in an officer training program. While in the service he got into an argument with a white officer and was court martialed on exaggerated charges. He was discharged, returned to the states and was offered a job playing in the negro leagues. He was the Shortstop for the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs when he was approached by Clyde Sukeforth.
Rachel (Isum) Robinson:
Rachel Isum met Jackie Robinson when they were both students at UCLA. Rachel was studying nursing and later went on to get a PhD in nursing becoming very successful and celebrated in the field. Rachel and Jackie married and had a very successful marriage full of mutual love and support. They had three children and without Rachel's support Jackie never would have succeeded in 1947. The two were truly a team. This is a perfect example of the saying that "behind every successful man is a successful woman". Since Jackie's death in October 1972 Rachel has done a great job of preserving the legacy of Jackie Robinson and is often seen at events honoring his memory.
Mallie McGriff Robinson was one of 14 children born to Wash and Edna McGriff, slaves in the Cairo, GA area. She married Jerry Robinson and had five children, Jackie being the youngest, and they worked as sharecroppers in Georgia. Eventually Jerry left the family and Mallie could not afford to pay the rent on the land. She packed up her five children and moved to live with her brother's family in Pasadena, CA. She worked hard to support the five children and as they got older they helped support Mallie. Her son Mack was an Olympic Athlete who finished second to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Branch Rickey was one of the most successful executives in baseball when he signed Jackie to a professional contract. A deeply religious man he refused to work on Sunday, even when he was a Catcher for the Yankees and later manager of the Cardinals. Rickey often told a story of his time as the coach at Ohio Wesleyan University. When the team tried to check into a hotel before a road game at Notre Dame, Rickey was told the team would not be accepted if they planned to check in with Charles Thomas, their African American Catcher. Rickey was able to convince the hotel to allow them to stay as long as Thomas did not sign the register and Thomas was only given a cot in Rickey's room, not an actual bed. When Rickey got to his room Thomas was sitting on the edge of the cot, crying and scratching at his hands. Rickey stopped and watched not knowing what to do. Thomas just said "It's my skin. If I could just tear it off I would be like everyone else." Rickey went on to become an executive with the St. Louis Browns and St.Louis Cardinals, introducing the famous Cardinals logo of two birds perched on a baseball bat. He revolutionized the sport by developing the first farm system of teams but he kept the terrible memory of Charles Thomas in his mind the rest of his life. After Happy Chandler, the new commissioner, made a statement known as the "four freedoms"statement, the door was open for Rickey to break the color barrier.
Clyde Sukeforth was sent by Branch Rickey to scout Jackie and was told he was scouting players for the Brooklyn Dodgers negro league team. Sukeforth reported back to Rickey, brought Jackie in for the first ever meeting and was a longtime supporter of Jackie. Frequent readers of the blog will remember that Clyde was featured in the series of articles focusing on players you may not know but should.
Clay Hopper was a Southerner managing the Brooklyn Dodgers' farm team, the Montreal Royals, when Branch Rickey assigned Jackie to play for the Royals. Hopper was appalled that he would be the first white manager to manage an African American player and begged Rickey to assign Jackie to another team because he was terrified of what his neighbors would do. While watching Jackie in practice before the season Rickey turned to Hopper and said "Can you believe the play that man just made?" The response summed up Hopper's beliefs. He asked Rickey "Mr. Rickey, do you really think a n*****'s a human being?" Hopper did his best to adapt to the situation ( if he didn't he would be out of a job) and to adapt to the changing world. As the Dodgers continued to sign players to follow Jackie's success Hopper continued to manage Montreal. Joe Black, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe all played under Hopper and although his racial views may or may not have changed, Campanella said he never had any negative experiences with Hopper.
Larraine Day was a famous actress best known for staring in the Dr. Kildare movie series along with Lew Ayres (husband of Ginger Rogers). Day herself was married to actor Ray Hendricks, although she was carrying on an affair with Leo Durocher, the Dodgers manager. Day and Hendricks sued each other for divorce on the grounds of infidelity and the scandal led to long time Dodger supporters, such as the Catholic Youth Organization, boycotting the team. Already in hot water for his other issues, the Dodgers ordered Durocher and Day to end the relationship. They refused, remained together and even married. When Durocher moved to the Giants, Day was given a pregame radio program called "Day with the Giants".
Lee MacPhail were legendary. Durocher was also known to associate with George Raft, a Hollywood actor and close friend of mobster Bugsy Siegel. Happy Chandler demanded that Durocher cut ties with the mobsters (and Raft) or he would be disciplined. When Durocher taunted MacPhail for having gamblers in his owner's box during a spring training game, MacPhail complained to Chandler and an investigation began. While the investigation went on Jackie was in Spring Training fighting to be promoted from Montreal. When Durocher found out about the petition signed by the southern players he called a team meeting. He made it clear that the players better fall in line or deal with him. He yelled at the team "I don't care if he's yellow or black or has stripes like a god damn zebra. I'm the manager of this team and I say he plays." The day before Opening Day 1947 Durocher was suspended for his gambling connections. He was replaced by Burt Shotton for the 1947 season but was back on the bench for 1948. Durocher and Robinson did not get along. When Jackie struggled at the start of the new year Durocher seemed to take it personally. Durocher treated Jackie like he did his other players (with a lot of yelling) but Jackie did not respond well and the relationship soured. Durocher was fired half way through the 1948 season and was immediately signed by the rival Giants igniting one of the most vicious periods of the rivalry.
Harold Parrott was the Dodgers traveling secretary given the impossible task of coordinating the Dodgers travel plans for the 1947 season. Parrott played a big part in keeping the balance on the team. When the players signed the petition to ask Rickey not to bring Jackie to the Dodgers, Parrott was the one who learned of the player revolt and brought it to Rickey's attention. Rickey told Parrott that he had confidence that everything would work out. Rickey predicted there would be some kind of incident that would rally the team behind Jackie.
Jake Pitler was a first base coach for the Dodgers. His Jewish background was used as a way to connect the team with the Jewsh community in Brooklyn. Pitler was very supportive of Jackie. During that first spring training Pitler told the press "It would be a crime not to let this boy come up because of his color." Throughout the season Pitler routinely pointed out that Jackie was the motor that made the Dodgers go.
Pee Wee Reese (Uniform #: 1):
Carl Furillo (Uniform # 6):
Dixie Walker (Uniform #11):
Eddie Stanky (Uniform #12)
Eddie Stanky had a good reason to fear having Jackie Robinson on the team. Stanky finished 7th in the MVP voting in 1946 for the Dodgers team that forced the first ever National League playoff. With Robinson playing a middle infield position and Pee Wee Reese, the team captain, at shortstop, it was clear where Jackie was destined to play. Stanky refused to sign the petition started by Dixie Walker, not necessarily because of Jackie, but out of loyalty to Branch Rickey. Stanky walked up to Jackie when he was officially given a spot on the Dodgers roster and said "I don't like you but we'll play together and get along because you're my teammate." As Ben Chapman and the Phillies launched an assault on Robinson, his teammates stood quietly by and let it happen. There was nothing they could (or would) do. Finally, during the third game in the Phillies series Stanky had had enough. "Hey you cowards, why don't you yell at someone who can answer back?" The Phillies did. Stanky was traded to the Boston Braves after the 1947 season and helped the Braves to their final National League Championship in Boston.
Ralph Branca (Uniform #20)
Ralph Branca is remembered for one pitch. In the 1951 playoff against the hated Giants, Branca threw the pitch that Bobby Thompson turned into "the shot heard around the world" which started Russ Hodges screaming "the Giants won the pennant!" for seemingly hours. In 1947 he was still a young pitcher for the Dodgers and was several years away from infamy. He was throwing a no hitter against the Cardinals when Enos Slaughter spiked Jackie at first. According to Branca he told Jackie he would bean the next Cardinals batter in retaliation but Jackie told him not to worry about it and just worry about getting the outs. Branca did not finish the no hitter but he did do a lot to support Robinson in his time with the Dodgers. Branca had several uniform numbers through his years with the Dodgers. In 1947 he wore number 20, however, you may also see him in a #12 or #13 uniform. He wore unlucky #13 at the time of Thompson's legendary home run. Branca was also the father in law of Bobby Valentine.
Spider Jorgensen (Uniform # 21)
Spider Jorgensen was a team mate of Robinson's in Montreal and came up to the Dodgers in 1947 along with Jackie. Jorgensen was in the spring training camp when Jackie first joined the organization and said he didn't think too much either way of having Jackie on the team. Jorgensen had played with African Americans in Junior College and in the California summer leagues and he had no concerns with having Jackie on the team. (Only 10 months younger than Jackie, and being from California, it is likely that Jorgensen would have heard of Jackie's success at UCLA). Like Hermanski, Jorgensen was a good player, but not a great player and as a rookie he probably felt it better to keep quiet and focus on playing in the 1947 season.
Gene Hermanski (Uniform # 22)
Gene Hermanski was a good outfielder for the Dodgers but not a great player. He first came to the majors in 1943 and hit .300 in only 18 games. He served in the military in 1944 and 1945 but was back for 64 games in 1946, hitting only .200. Hermanski is usually absent from Robinson literature and seems to have kept relatively quiet. This is just speculation but it may be that as a native of Massachusetts, and as a relatively marginal player at the time he may have had little social contact with the Southern players. He probably also felt it was best to keep quiet, keep his head down and focus on playing. He played a big part in the Dodgers success in 1947 and 1949 and their success in the early parts of the 1951 season. He was traded to the Cubs in June of 1951 and played through the 1953 season ending his career with the Pirates.
Bobby Bragan (Uniform #24)
Bobby Bragan was a utility player, mostly playing at Catcher, born and raised in Birmingham, AL. He did not play in 1946 but was back on the roster in 1947 for Jackie's rookie season. When he learned that Robinson would join the big league Dodgers, he signed the petition started by Dixie Walker. He also had salary issues with management and demanded to be traded. Bragan played in only 34 more games for the Dodgers over the next two seasons before retiring. He deeply regretted the petition he signed and went on to manage in the majors. Bragan's uniform number may also appear as#15. He wore #15 during the years 1943 and 1944. When he returned to the roster in 1947 he was given uniform #24.
Hugh Casey (Uniform #25)
Hugh Casey was one of the southern players who almost immediately sided with Dixie Walker when the idea of a petition was put forth. He and Jackie were never friends and Casey often made racial jokes in front of Jackie. Although they were not friends, Casey often worked with Jackie in practice and often defended him against other teams.
Rex Barney (Uniform #26)
Rex Barney was on the mound warming up in Cincinnati when the crowd started to verbally attack Jackie and Reese famously put his arm around Jackie's shoulder. Barney would later say that Jackie was "the most exciting player I have ever seen- not the best but the most exciting." Barney was a pitcher with a lot of potential but was often wild. Going into the 1947 season he had pitched in 27 games and had a 4-7 record in parts of two seasons. He would go on to a 5-2 record in 1947. His best season was 1948 when he went 15-13 with a 3.10 ERA. His wildness continued to get worse as his career progressed and his career never got back on track. After his playing days Barney worked for years as the stadium announcer in Baltimore. He was known to say "Give that fan a contract!" anytime a fan made a nice catch on a foul ball and the end of announcements would often be completed with an exaggerated "Thank You!" extending the word you. Following the Orioles last game played in Memorial Stadium the Orioles had a ceremony to celebrate the legends of the franchise. The last sound that came over the PA of Memorial Stadium was Rex Barney's "Thank Youuuuuuu!"
Pete Reiser (Uniform #27)
OTHER LEAGUE PLAYERS/PERSONNEL:
Chandler was the second commissioner of baseball. Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis (the first) died in 1944 Chandler replaced him (after a brief interim commissioner) and immediately showed that he intended to run things differently. Landis had repeatedly said publicly that there was no ban on African-Americans playing in the Major Leagues but behind the scenes made it clear that he would not allow it. Chandler was different. Chandler was asked by two African American reporters whether he would continue Landis's policy. He responded "I'm for the four freedoms and if a black man can make it at Okinawa and go to Guadalcanal, he can make it in baseball." Chandler, born and raised in Kentucky, was widely criticised by southern fans.
Johnny Sain (Uniform #33 for Braves)
There was a clear game plan for the Braves in the 1940's and 1950's. The pitching staff was "Spahn then Sain, then pray for rain". Sain won 20 games in 1946 and would win another 21 in 1947. On April 15, 1947 Sain started the opening day game against the Dodgers and was the first pitcher to face Jackie Robinson in a regulation Major League game. Sain had a great amount of success against Jackie and throughout the years Jackie struggled to hit Sain's curve ball. Sain would win 24 games in 1948 as the Braves reached the World Series and would later go on to be a long time pitching coach for the Yankees.
Ben Chapman (Phillies Manager):
Herb Pennock was a legend in Philadelphia. Known as "the Squire of Kennett Square" where he grew up, Pennock was signed by Connie Mack in 1912 and pitched for Mack's 1914 AL Champion Athletics. When Mack dumped payroll after the World Series loss, Pennock went on to pitch for the Red Sox until that team shifted most of their best players to the Yankees and he moved to New York in 1923. He was the star pitcher in the Yankees first World Series win. At the time Jackie came into the league Pennock was the General Manager for the Phillies and was ready to fire Ben Chapman after the ugly incident. Only Chapman's "apology" to Jackie saved his job.
As a rookie manager in 1946 Eddie Dyer led the Cardinal to a first place tie with Brooklyn, a victory over the Dodgers in the first ever National League playoff series and a seven game World Series win over the Red Sox. Leading into opening day 1947 , Dyer had to deal with his players, led by a southern contingent, threatening to go on strike if they were forced to play in the same league as Jackie Robinson. Fortunately for Dyer, NL President Ford Frick ended all of the strike talk quickly by saying that anyone who chose to go on strike in protest of Robinson could stay home because they would not be welcomed back...ever. Following the first series with the Cardinals, Jackie mentioned Eddie Dyer as one of the "swell bunch of guys" who had treated him well.
Stan Musial (Uniform #6 for Cardinals)
Frequent readers who saw the post that was completed at the time of Musial's passing will know that he is generally considered one of the nicest and classiest men to have ever played the game. He was named along with Garagiola and Eddie Dyer as two players treating Jackie well during the Dodgers' first visit to St. Louis. When the Cardinals played the Dodgers in the second series, when Slaughter spiked Jackie and Garagiola had his confrontation with Robinson, Jackie was on first base and was angry. Jackie reportedly said (either to Stan or to the first base coach) "I don't care what happens but when I get down to second base I'm going to kill someone." Musial's response was "I don't blame you. You have every right to do it." Musial's calm, classy response calmed Jackie down.
Joe Garagiola (Cardinals Uniform #17):
Billy Herman (Uniform #11 for Pirates)
Billy Herman was a great second baseman for the Cubs. A seven time All Star in Chicago and team leader for the Cubs' 1932, 1935 and 1938 World Series teams, the Dodgers made a trade for Herman early in 1941 and the double play combination of Herman and Reese helped lead the Dodgers to their first World Series since 1920. Herman hated Branch Rickey and was traded to the Braves midway through the 1946 season (the final straw that sent Herman packing is debated). In 1947 Herman was in his last year of his career and was playing for the Pirates. He is mentioned very little in connection with Robinson that I am aware so it is unclear if he will be one of the Pirates vocally against Jackie or one who showed concern when he was hit by Ostermuller.
Fritz Ostermuller (Uniform # 21 for Pirates)
When the Dodgers first faced the Pirates in 1947, the Pirates were a divided team among themselves, which likely explains why they ended so low in the standings that year (62-92, last place, 32 games behind the Dodgers). Ostermuller was not happy that Jackie was in the league and took the opportunity to show Jackie what he thought. The first pitch was up and in, aimed right at Jackie's head. Jack was able to get his arm up to deflect the ball but fell to the ground and was in severe pain. His Dodgers teammates came to his defense and challenged Ostermuller, several Pirates players also showed some concern. Later in the season, when Jackie stole home for the first time in his career, it was against Ostermuller. In that same series in Brooklyn Jackie homered off Ostermuller.
Kirby Higbe (Uniform #13 for Pirates)
Kirby Higbe was a southern born pitcher known to his teammates as Kirby "F'ing" Higbe because as soon as he checked into a hotel on the road he would call room service and announce "This is Kirby F***ing Higbe in room 205. Send up...". He would then charge the laundry list of items to the team. When Dixie Walker asked players to sign a petition to keep Jackie off the team Higbe reluctantly signed. A few days later he was having a few beers with Harold Parrott and his guilt got the best of him. He let Parrott know of the planned revolt leading Rickey and Durocher to react. His involvement led Rickey to trade Higbe to the Pirates, along with several players including future long time manager Gene Mauch (not in any way involved in the petition but just a very interesting side note), in exchange for Al Gionfrido. Gionfrido would be one of Jackie's biggest supporters in the clubhouse and would make one of the greatest catches in World Series history in the 1947 World Series. Higbe's part was not over. The day before Ostermuller threw at Jackie, Higbe started against the Dodgers. Pee Wee Reese led off the game and the first pitch was identical to the one Ostermuller sent at Jackie the day before, although Reese was not hit by the pitch. Most believed it was because Pee Wee had refused to sign the petition but there could have been deeper bad feelings between the two as they were long time teammates. Reese stepped back into the box and sent the second pitch of the game out of the park for a home run.
"Young" Ed Charles:
Ed Charles is listed on the IMDB cast page as "young Ed Charles" in the movie. Charles would have been a week away from turning 14, growing up in Daytona Beach, FL, when the Dodgers opened the 1947 season. Charles went on to be a pretty good player on some very bad teams. He was drafted by the Braves in 1952 but would be moved to the Athletics organization before the Braves became consistent National League contenders. He would play for the Athletics during the bad Kansas City years and then would be moved to the comical Mets. Charles was still with the team when the "Miracle Mets" won the 1969 World Series. Ed Charles is still active in the baseball community and is very well respected. He will likely be utilized to portray the doors that were opened to the youth of the country because of the success of Branch Rickey's plan and Jackie's hard work.
CHARACTERS NOT LISTED BUT LIKELY APPEARING OR BEING REFERENCED:
Hank Greenburg (Uniform #5 for Pirates)
Bob Feller (Indians Pitcher)
Dan Bankhead (Uniform # 23 for Dodgers)
Midway through the season when it was clear that Jackie was a success Rickey wanted to expand the experiment to cement the idea that this was for real and not just a stunt or gimmick. On August 26th Rickey signed Dan Bankhead of the Negro League's Memphis Red Sox. Bankhead made his debut on August 26th and was the second African American player to play in the National League. He was not nearly as successful as Jackie. He pitched in 18 innings with no record but an ERA of 7.20. He finished his career in 1951 with a career 9-5 record and a 6.52 ERA.
Larry Doby (Uniform #14 for Indians):
Bill Veeck owned several teams over the years and was always looking for ways to bring fans into the seats. When he owned the Browns he hired a midget, Eddie Gaedel, to pinch hit for one game. Later, when he owned the White Sox, he came up with Disco Demolition night and the players wearing shorts instead of the traditional pants. Before Branch Rickey came up with the idea of breaking the color barrier, Veeck had planned to buy the Phillies and fill the starting lineup with African American players. When Commissioner Landis learned of Veeck's plan he made sure the Phillies were sold to someone else. As the owner of the Indians, Veeck was able to break the color barrier in the American League by signing Larry Doby.