To the Editor…

by on April 25, 2013

Randy, here is my letter response to your article on 42.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the film, “42” on Jackie Robinson’s first two years in baseball will be rated at the close of 2013 as the best film of the year. It is thoroughly enjoyable and reasonably accurate. We learn that Robinson’s career as a baseball player was filled with heroes and anti-heroes. Pee Wee Reese was among the heroes. Although he acknowledged that Robinson’s hand was the first black hand he ever shook, unlike many of the other players, he was not prejudiced. He also refused to sign a statement by the Dodger players threatening a boycott if Robinson joins the team.

In Cincinnati, at the beginning of Robinson’s first season, he was hissed by the crowd. But did Reese actually come to the rescue by putting his hand around Robinson’s shoulder, as the film claims? There is no hard evidence that this occurred then. There are certainly no photos of that event. Robinson did not allude to it anytime afterward. Nobody has come forward to verify this claim with certainty. And although the only surviving member of that team, Ralph Branca, says he had seen Reese putting his arms around his shoulder, he could not say where and when.

So we’ll never really know. Perhaps he did so a year or so later. It is also possible that he never did. But unquestionably, this native of Kentucky gave Robinson considerable support during the player’s very difficult years. So the fiction in the movie successfully dramatizes the humane and courageous role that Reese played.

Harry Brill

Filed under: Letters to the Editor