More than 100 players and other club employees watched the film at a theater in Port Charlotte, Fla., the Rays’ spring training site, “and I think a lot of guys walked away with a greater appreciation” of Robinson’s contribution, manager Joe Maddon said before the Rays lost 3-2 to the Red Sox.
Maddon said Robinson’s debut helped lead to the broader civil rights movement.
“I still don’t think people understand how much it plays into the Martin Luther King situation,” he said. “The revolution that occurred at that particular moment, it mattered. That had to happen first to set that whole thing up.
“So when you’re talking about Jackie Robinson, I don’t think people realize the significance and really courage that went behind that, and in the movie it points that out _ the courage to not fight back, to be able to win over that particular mindset to be able to make all of this work,” he added.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said baseball “reflects society in so many ways, whether it’s the color barriers being broken down. In our clubhouse you’ve got six or seven countries coming together. As a group of 25, you look to not only co-exist, but (recognize) the individuality of everyone in there.
“Certainly, the Robinson family and certainly Jackie himself may be one of the most significant situations in our country’s history,” Farrell said, “breaking down segregation to the point of inclusion and I think that happens in the game today.”
The movie “42” earned an estimated $27.3 million over the weekend, according to Warner Brothers, its distributor.
The subject’s popularity extends to the sale of licensed sports merchandise. Fanatics.com, a large online retailer of those items, said sales of Jackie Robinson gear on its site since the season began increased by more than 1,000 percent over the same time period last year.
In Miami, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Norman Berman, the ballboy for the Brooklyn Dodgers the year Robinson was a rookie.
The 84-year-old Berman lives in nearby West Palm Beach. He was the Dodgers’ 19-year-old ballboy in 1947 when the team reached the World Series.
Berman said Robinson befriended him, played catch with him and gave tips on how to make a double-play pivot.
“He was a wonderful person,” Berman said. “I learned something from him _ when you go through tough times, you’ve got to stay positive. I don’t think most of the ballplayers who came after him would have been able to be the first black ballplayer, because they couldn’t do what he did.”