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Posts Tagged ‘Jackie Robinson’

As a fitting follow-up to my last post about Jackie Robinson, I learned that baseball great Hank Aaron died today. My first thought was being a 12-year-old baseball fanatic when Aaron was chasing Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. I wrote to Aaron via the Atlanta Braves organization requesting an autograph— and I got one! (Pictured below with the Sports Illustrated I kept after he surpassed Ruth.)

In the years that followed, I learned that life didn’t always go so smoothly. (Request/ request granted.) But getting that autograph in the mail was one fine day in the sun from my youth. And as I got older and read about the racism (and death threats) that Aaron endured while chasing Ruth, the more my admiration for him grew. To play professional sports at any level for any amount of time is a giant feat. But to play Major League baseball for 23 years as Aaron did, at the level he did—with the extra pressure that he faced—is phenomenal. Thanks for the memories Hammerin’ Hank.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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Jackie Robinson made my success possible. Without him, I would never have been able to do what I did.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.
(King was a student at Moorehouse College in 1947 when Robinson became the first black player to play Major League Baseball)

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
—Hall of Fame baseball player Jackie Robinson

To learn more about Jackie Robinson read his autobiography I Never Had it Made and check out the documentary Jackie Robinson by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon. Then there’s the movie 42 starring Chadwick Boseman as Robinson.

P.S. The following scene from Spike Lee’s unproduced script Jackie Robinson takes place at Sanford Memorial Stadium. A stadium I played many games as a high school baseball player. It’s where Hall of Fame baseball player Tim Raines played his high school games. And it’s also just a few miles from where Trayvon Martin was killed. Gives that scene a little more punch doesn’t it?

Related posts:
Martin Luther King Jr. and Writing Strong-Willed Characters
“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream”
Marlon Brando & Johnny Carson After the Death of Martin Luther King Jr.
Chadwick Boseman, Jackie Robinson, and the Struggle for a More Perfect Union
Spike Lee on Why You Have To Make Your Own Movies
Filmmaking in New Hampshire (Ken Burns Style)

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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“Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is, and how you need to fight it. . . . The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”
—Actor Chadwick Boseman
2018 Howard University Commencement Speech

Legacy. What is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me
”The World Was Wide Enough” from Hamilton

This morning I woke up and heard that actor Chadwick Boseman died of cancer at age 43. Known for his lead role in the Black Panther and as Jackie Robinson in 42. 

Here’s a scene from 42 with Boseman and Harrison Ford as (Branch Rickey) dealing with the struggles of being the first black baseball player in Major League Baseball. Followed by an old Jackie Robinson interview (from the 1970s shortly before he died).

Earlier this week I was editing a video project on Renaissance art for a humanities professor. It was a talk that connected in my mind a few dots. Dot that went all the way back to ancient Greece and extended into our present times.

At the same time I was editing, and only about 10 miles away here in Central Florida the Milwaukee Bucks  boycotted playing a basketball game against the Orlando Magic. They were protesting a shooting by police of Jacob Blake (a 29-year-old black man) a few days ago in Kenosha, Wisconsin,

By the end of the day several teams in the NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer joined the boycott. I don’t think anything of that magnitude has ever happened in professional sports.

On Wednesday of this week I finished the last episode of the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War which I hadn’t seen in entirety since it first aired on PBS 30 years ago. It also connected a lot of dots. In some ways, The Civil War doc plays better in 2020 than it even did in 1990. It’s not hard to connect the dots back a few hundred years to when the first slaves were brought to the new world in 1619, and connect them to our present time.

Much has changed for the good, and much has not changed. What led me to rewatching The Civil War was watching Hamilton on Disney+.  A musical that not only was unique for telling the story of the founding fathers with a multi-multi-rational cast, but one that touched on how dealing with slavery was a part of the debate in 1776 of what it meant for “all men created equal.” It would take almost another 100 years—and the loss of 600,000+ soldiers in the Civil War—for the freeing of slaves.

Now here we are almost 160 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued The Emancipation Proclamation. And  still, as The Constitution if the U.S.A.states,, working on forming “a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility.”

In a year that has brought about more than its share of struggles, here’s some encouraging words from 2018 commencement speech by Chadwick Boseman as he received and honorary doctorate from his alma mater Howard University. (Keep in mind that he was already diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer when he gave this talk.)

Book update: I’ll have some news here on Tuesday, September 1 about finally releasing my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles into the world in a couple of weeks.

Scott W. Smith

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The Use of Time

 “That thing that can write great symphonies, that can write great tragedies is this use of time.”
Branch Rickey
1956 speech in Atlanta

One of the things I learned in the movie 42 was how deliberate Branch Rickey was in integrating professional baseball when he signed Jackie Robinson to a contract—and how much time it took to pull off his “experiment” of ending segregation in baseball.

It made me wonder where Branch Rickey came from and the answer turns out to be a small town in Ohio.

Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio and raised on a farm and educated in a one room school house.  He was a devout Christian in the Methodist tradition with a sense of a calling. In a sermon once said that the Lord’s work called for him to bring the first black ballplayer into major league baseball.

Writer Jimmy Breslin, in his book Branch Rickey, gives this glimpse into the intellect of Rickey; “He never went to high school, but his first job was as a schoolteacher. Later he taught college freshman English, Latin, Shakespeare, and Greek drama, and read for the law in his free time.”

Rickey graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and law school at the University of Michigan. He was an officer in the Army during World War 1.

He was also a good enough baseball player himself to briefly play major league baseball (and he was also paid to play football in Ohio), but it was his role on the management side in baseball where he would make his mark. He became president of the St. Louis Cardinals when he was 36-years old and joined the Brooklyn Dodgers as president and general manager when he was 62-years-old.

When in 1945 he broke the race barrier by signing Jackie Robinson as the first black professional baseball player in the modern era Rickey was 64-years old. And according to various reports it was on his mind since seeing a racial injustice happen when he was in college. Call it the 40 year plan.

“We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten.”
Richard Foster

The take away is you can be raised on a farm in a small town in Ohio and with a little faith, education and  persistence–and forty years of patience—you can change the world.

Related posts:

Screenwriting & the Little Fat Girl from Ohio
The Lucky Slob from Ohio
Rod Serling’s Ohio Epiphany
Great Screenplay=10 Man Years
Shoot for the Moon
Toy Story 3’s Ohio Connection
Starting Small

Scott W. Smith  

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There are many layers to Jackie Robinson’s life story, but here’s a quote from him that at first doesn’t seem inspirational but I think fits this blog well:

“In those days [1941] no major football or basketball clubs hired black players. The only job offered me [after a great athletic career at UCLA] was with the Honolulu Bears, and when I reported there I got a job with a construction company headquartered near Pearl Harbor. I worked for them during the week and played football on Sundays with my first pro team, the Bears. They were not major league, but they were integrated. The football season ended in November and I wanted to get back to California. I arranged for ship passage and left Honolulu on December 5, 1941, two days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”
Jackie Robinson
I Never Had it Made 

Before Jackie Robinson went on to greatness, he is a fine example of somebody who did what he could, with what he had, where he was.

Related Posts: The First Black Feature Filmmaker
“One of the greatest tasks of my life has been to teach that the colored man can be anything,”
Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951)

Scott W. Smith 

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I saw the Google icon today was of Jackie Robinson on account of January 31 being his birthday. The Brian Helgeland (Oscar-winner for L.A. Confidential)  written and directed movie 42 (Robinson’s jersey number when he played for the Dodgers) will be released this April. But many don’t know that there was a movie of Robinson’s life made in 1950 called The Jackie Robinson Story—and starred Robinson playing himself.

Here’s the entire movie, written by Arthur Mann, Louis Pollock, and Lawrence Taylor as found on You Tube:

Scott W. Smith

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