MANY YEARS AGO I saw "The Jackie Robinson Story" starring Jackie Robinson and thought to myself, "Well cast." Then last week I saw "42," starring Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, and thought to myself, "Boy, that guy portrayed Jackie Robinson better than Jackie Robinson did." That's the magic of Hollywood.
Other things I learned from "42":
Although there's no cheering in the press box, groundbreaking African-American sportswriter Wendell Smith rooted for Robinson the whole way; in his defense, Smith wasn't even allowed in the press box.
Robinson was offered $600 a month and a $3,500 bonus by Branch Rickey and agreed to it without negotiation; sad to say, he needed an agent.
On Robinson's first Brooklyn Dodgers at-bat, he hit a grounder to third and was called out on a close play at first; alas, I was conditioned to want to see a replay.
Even Robinson used to stand at home plate and admire his home run drives before breaking into a home run trot.
Back in the day, when you got hit by a pitch they let you lay on the ground while the two teams brawled.
You should never start or sign a petition on hotel stationary saying you won't play alongside a black teammate.
You speak your mind, they used to send you to Pittsburgh.
Pre-Internet, people once wrote letters when they got mad.
People used to answer their phones without Caller ID.
You can propose marriage over the phone - and get a "yes."
When they overbooked a flight back then, they'd sell away your ticket if you used the "White Only" ladies room and you weren't white.
But what I learned most shockingly from "42" was this:
Until 1947 - which was not that long ago - there were no black players in Major League Baseball.
I did some further research on my own and discovered that, until 1863, blacks were enslaved in much of America. Enslaved? That would seem to be a human-rights issue.
That led me to a Nate Silver-like statistical breakdown of U.S. history - I know baseball people love numbers - that cast a somewhat dark cloud over our land of liberty.
For the first 87 years of our nearly 237-year existence as a nation - that's 36.7 percent of the total time since the American Revolution - we had slavery.
For the first 92 years, blacks were not citizens.