'They made the movie like it was': Jackie Robinson's former Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Bobby Morgan reviews '42'

Bobby Morgan wasn't there in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. But from 1950-53, he was a Brooklyn Dodger. Morgan said the reproach he saw Robinson take in 1950 was worse than what the movie depicted.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 14, 2013

I sat in a Quail Springs AMC theater Friday, watching the Jackie Robinson movie “42,” and when the opening scene showed Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the guy sitting next to me exclaimed out loud.

“Looks just like him.”

The guy should know. I went to the movies with Bobby Morgan.

We are getting further and further from 1947, when Robinson broke baseball's color barrier and helped change America. It was 66 years ago. Few primary sources are left from one of America's great stories, sports or otherwise.

Morgan wasn't there in 1947. But from 1950-53, Morgan was a Boy of Summer. A Brooklyn Dodger. Jackie Robinson's teammate.

Who better to offer us a movie review?

Morgan grew up in Oklahoma City, was a 1944 Classen High School graduate and the International League MVP in 1949, with the Montreal Royals.

Now Morgan is 86 and sharp as ever. Still talks about the old Ebbets Field days as if it's 1953 and he's standing in the Brooklyn sunlight.

On Robinson: “He was a super human being. Honor to play with him.”

On Pee Wee Reese, the Dodger shortstop in those glory years: “My first roommate with the Dodgers in 1950. Just a super, super guy. He was the captain of our ballclub. He's still our captain, although he's gone.”

On Rickey: “Son of a …” Well, best left unsaid what Morgan says about the fabled Dodger president. Too many rough negotiations for Morgan to feel much kinship with the Mahatma.

Morgan doesn't mince words. So believe him when lauds “42” for capturing the spirit of sport's greatest trailblazer.

Morgan's quick take: “I thought the movie was super. Real moving. No punches were pulled at all. They made the movie like it was.”

Morgan marveled at the likenesses of some of the actors. Chadwick Boseman looks a lot like Robinson. Christopher Meloni of Law & Order fame favors the 1940s photos of Leo Durocher. John C. McGinley made a mean Red Barber.

Morgan was stunned at how much Hamish Linklater looked like a young Ralph Branca. And Ford, well, it was eerie how much he was Branch Rickey and not Harrison Ford. “He had his actions real good,” Morgan said.

Even the stadiums — Crosley Field, Ebbets, Shibe Park, Forbes Field — were well-replicated.

But even without such realism, this movie was a winner, because it crystallized the hostility which Robinson had to endure.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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