Two very satisfying baseball movies are currently making the rounds. Both give valuable lessons in the triumph of personal courage.
It’s really hard to imagine in 2013 how blatant and ugly was the shameful, wide-spread and accepted practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws in post-WWII America. 42 is the moving and intimate story of Brooklyn Dodgers Number 42 – black baseball player Jackie Robinson – and the Dodgers’ decision to hire Robinson and take on the struggle to break the color barrier in 1947-48. 42 gives us but a tiny, unvarnished taste of what it must have been like to be the recipient of such vicious, withering, personal attacks from every quarter, and what courage Robinson showed not knowing the eventual outcome. The despicable behavior of my fellow Americans brought tears of shame streaming down my face, only to be replaced by tears of pride for the humanity that Robinson showed us all in the face of one of the ugliest chapters in our history.
Chadwick Bozeman gives us a towering yet deeply human portrayal of Robinson, playing opposite a crusty Harrison Ford as Dodger owner Branch Rickey who pragmatically sees the future for what it is. What a team Robinson & Rickey made. What a story we get from Bozeman and Harrison. Do not miss it.
‘In The Big Inning….” is the clever tag line of an adorable little independent film called the Yankles, written, directed and produced by two nice Jewish boys from Orange county, David & Zev Brooks.
The Yeshiva Torah V’Limud rabbinical students have a fledgling baseball team. They have a chance to compete in the intercollegiate athletic system. Now all they need is a coach. Enter three-time DUY loser Charlie Jones (played by Brian Wimmer) who’s just been paroled after an 18-month jail sentence and who must satisfy his community service parole requirement. He just happens to be the X-wife of the sister of Yankles shortstop and team captain, Elliot Eliahu Dubinsky, (played by Michael Buster) who just happens to be an X-AA ball player who is now a huge disappointment to Dad, X-major league ball player Frankie Dubinsky, (played by Don Most of Happy Days fame) because after a trip to Israel he’s abandoned his baseball career to become a Rabbi. Did you get all that? No matter. For everyone who simply likes a good story, this maisse mit a deitch is a leben ahf dein kip. You’ll be k’velening all over yourself. If you like baseball, you’ll like it even better.
Interesting that the film was shot entirely in Utah and the cast were mostly locals who happened to be of the Mormon faith. They did an outstanding job in their portrayal of Orthodox Yeshiva students, who must learn from their Rebbe that “some things are more important than winning. We are Jewish Yeshiva students first and ball players second.” That belief is sorely tested when the Yankles make it into the finals and the smarmy Inter-collegiate sports commissioner (with a double play of antisemitism and a past score to settle with Coach Charlie) schedules the final game on the Jewish Sabbath so the team won’t be unable to play.
Although the film hasn’t yet found a home through wide distribution, look for it On Demand, through Netflix or at YouTube. We were fortunate enough to see it at Temple Sinai in Palm Desert where we were treated to an after film discussion with the writing, directing and producing brothers David & Zev Brooks.