Sunday, July 20, 2014

42, the movie, revisited.

By now you're probably sick of it.  Movie reviews by people who never review movies.  During the All Star break I happened upon an HBO showing of the 2013 movie 42, which I had already seen multiple times on TV.  I picked it up shortly before the Ben Chapman scene, when the Philadelphia manager taunts protagonist Jackie Robinson.  Here are some things I noticed in the remainder of the movie.

SABR bio
1. Enos Slaughter supposedly intentionally spiked Robinson who was playing first base in his rookie season.  The movie indicates that this occurred in Brooklyn in August.

Why Brooklyn?  Why wouldn't Slaughter do it in St. Louis?

Why August?  Robinson played from 1947 through 1956.  In the old 154 game schedule, which was used in both of the two independent major leagues through 1960, each team played its seven opponents 22 times, eleven home, eleven road.  Slaughter already had plenty of opportunity to vent any racial animosity well before August.  Maybe it was the fever of the pennant race.  St. Louis had won the World Series in 1946, the previous season.  Slaughter might have felt threatened by the Brooklyn team.  Still, the timing seems odd.  Here's the first game between the teams in 1947:

Tuesday, May 6, 1947, , Ebbets Field
Attendance: 18,971, Time of Game: 2:55
Dodgers 7 (10-3, 1st), Cardinals 6 (3-12, 8th, 8 GB)

Slaughter and Robinson were both was 2 for 5.  Where was Slaughter's ire?

The Dodgers swept a doubleheader against St. Louis in Brooklyn Aug. 18: 7-5, 12-3, then lost individual games each of the next two days: 11-3, 3-2.  The teams played next in St. Louis Sept. 11, 12, 13.  So, I'm guessing that the spiking occurred in game one August 18; Dodgers won 7-5.  In the movie the game was in Brooklyn and Robinson was spiked late in a close game.  By then the teams would have already played 15 games in 1947.

Monday, August 18, 1947, , Ebbets Field
Attendance: 33,723, Time of Game: 2:33
First game of doubleheader
Dodgers 7 (72-45, 1st), Cardinals 5 (64-49, 2nd, 7 GB)

Slaughter hit a triple in four at bats; scored one, one RBI.  Robinson hit a home run in three at bats, plus a walk; scored 2, one RBI.  Batting second in the first inning Robinson homered; Brooklyn scored another run and led 2-0 after one inning.  I don't recall the movie showing Robinson homering, which would be odd if this is the game.  In the top of the second Slaughter tripled and scored the first of two Cardinal runs.  Tie game 2-2.  With the Cardinals trailing 7-4 Slaughter grounded out in the 6th and 8th.  In the 8th after Slaughter  made the second out advancing Stan Musial to second, Terry Moore doubled in Musial making it 7-5, the final score.  Dodger starter Vic Lombardi pitched into the 9th when Hugh Casey relieved him after a single and a walk.

However, that's not the game according to the SABR bio of Slaughter:

The Redbirds faced off against the Dodgers on August 20, 1947 at Ebbets Field, in another battle of first- and second-place teams. With the score tied at two in the top of the 11th inning, Musial was on first base. Slaughter hit a Hugh Casey offering to first base, which was fielded by Jackie Robinson, who looked to second, thought better of it, and ran to first base to record the out. As Robinson turned toward the field of play to ensure that Musial did not take off for third base, Slaughter was coming hard down the line and spiked Robinson’s right ankle, causing Robinson to clutch his ankle in tremendous pain. He was able to remain in the game after receiving treatment.
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The Dodgers lost that game 3-2 in 12 innings.  Not mentioned in the movie: after Robinson was spiked in the 11th inning, Robinson led off the 12th inning with a single with St. Louis leading 3-2.  Robinson was sacrificed to second but was then picked off second, catcher to shortstop with pinch hitter Arky Vaughan batting.  Vaughan then grounded out to first.

St. Louis pulled within five games of Brooklyn, only three back in the loss column.  The movie suggests that Brooklyn won the game.  And isn't Robinson shown taking a throw?

2. The banishment of two Dodger players, Kirby Higbe and Dixie Walker, to Pittsburgh by Dodger general manager Branch Rickey seems timed more for the benefit of the team than to remove a thorn in Robinson's side.  Both deals greatly improved the Dodgers on the field.  But the movie makes both seem part of the morality play.  Let's take a look.

Kirby Higbe is shown in the movie complaining in the Dodger clubhouse about being traded to Pittsburgh.  But Higbe is 32 years old and though he was 22-9 on the previous Dodger pennant winner in 1941 by 1947 his ERA in 15 innings is 5.17.

May 3, 1947: Traded by the Brooklyn Dodgers with Hank Behrman, Dixie Howell, Gene Mauch and Cal McLish to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Al Gionfriddo and $100,000.

Gionfriddo, of course, is famous for making a possible home run saving catch against Joe DiMaggio at Yankee Stadium in the World Series, prompting DiMaggio to display annoyance by kicking dirt as he approached second base.

Maybe not such a smart trade but Rickey got a cut of the money received in trades.  Pitcher Cal McLish was 21 and threw over 1,500 innings for other teams through 1964.

Dixie Walker was a starting outfielder on the 1947 Dodgers.  Whatever problem Walker caused regarding Robinson, Rickey kept Walker on the team the entire season.  Why?
BA: .306
OBP: .415
SLG: .427
OPS: .842
OPS+: 121

Then why trade him after the season?  Walker was already 36 years old.

December 8, 1947: Traded by the Brooklyn Dodgers with Hal Gregg and Vic Lombardi to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Billy Cox, Gene Mauch and Preacher Roe.
October 1, 1949: Released by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

These two players helped Brooklyn win during their years there (1948-1954):

Billy Cox became the Dodger third baseman for most of his years in Brooklyn: .

Preacher Roe was a starting pitcher: 93-37, ERA 3.26, ERA+ 124; 22-3 in 1951.

3. Eddie Stanky, second baseman, is portrayed in the movie as a good guy, even defending Robinson against the primary antagonist, Ben Chapman.  But before the 1948 season Rickey also traded Stanky.  That's not mentioned in the movie epilogue.

March 6, 1948: Traded by the Brooklyn Dodgers with a player to be named later to the Boston Braves for a player to be named later, Bama Rowell, Ray Sanders and $40,000. The Boston Braves sent $60,000 (April 18, 1948) to the Brooklyn Dodgers to complete the trade. The Brooklyn Dodgers sent Ray Sanders (April 18, 1948) to the Boston Braves to complete the trade.

4.  Fritz Ostermueller is another villain.  Ostermueller is a 39 year old left handed starting pitcher for Pittsburgh.  Early in the season Ostermueller hits Robinson in the head with a pitch in Robinson's first plate appearance against him.  Later in the movie Robinson gets the ultimate revenge by hitting the pennant winning home run off Ostermueller Sept. 17, 1947.  Except that the game is in Pittsburgh so the implication that it's a walk off homer is obviously incorrect.  Plus, it gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead ... in the fourth inning.  Robinson was the only batter hit by Ostermueller in 1947 but the movie implies that after Robinson is hit his next opportunity is that late season game.  Actually, Robinson had 25 plate appearances against Ostermueller in 1947.  In the second game Ostermueller pitched against the Dodgers in 1947 Robinson hit a home run and two singles off Ostermueller.  For the 1947 season Robinson against Ostermueller:
BA: .429
OBP: .500
SLG: .762
OPS: 1.262

In 1948 Robinson had a double and walk in three PA against Ostermueller.

Note: Ostermueller batted and threw lefty.  In the movie the actor throws righty.

Finally, the music at the end reminded me of the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In other words, a bit over the top.  The movie skips the part about the Dodgers losing the World Series to the Yankees in 1947 ... and 1949, 1952, 1953, 1956.  It zooms to 1955 and states that Robinson stole home in game one and that the Dodgers won that World Series, omitting the fact that Robinson was benched in game seven because he was not hitting:
BA: .182
OBP: .250
SLG: .318
OPS: .568

For 160 PA in 38 WS games in 6 WS, all against the New York Yankees:
BA: .234
OBP: .335
SLG: .343
OPS: .679

Wednesday, September 28, 1955, , Yankee Stadium I
Attendance: 63,869, Time of Game: 2:31
Yankees 6, Dodgers 5
SB: J. Robinson (1, Home off Whitey Ford/Yogi Berra)

The movie got that right but neglected to mention that Robinson's team still lost the game.

Note: In 1947 Dodger radio announcer Red Barber was 39 years old; the actor playing him was 54.

1 comment:

Warren Donaldson said...

I picked up on several of the same points; missed some of the others you mentioned.

One thing that stood out was when the narrator summed up Robinson's rookie season with words to the effect of: "Jackie Robinson led the National League with 29 stolen bases and was not caught stealing a single time."

That is not correct and any baseball expert working on the movie should have realized that 29-0 has never been achieved. "Caught Stealing" was not an official statistic -- so the stat doesn't show up on Robinson's record -- but CS is recorded in the modern box scores.

Baseball-Reference.com (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=robinja02&t=b&year=1947) indicates 11 CS for Robinson on the season, including once in game 2 of that August 18 DH vs. St. Louis.

He was also caught trying to steal home in a July 26 game vs. Pittsburgh at Forbes Field by Preacher Roe and catcher Clyde Kluttz.

Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers had a great (but not quite WS championship) season in 1947. The moviemakers didn't need to embellish it.