Depicted in the film is one teammate who wouldn’t play with Robinson (Dixie Walker) and players on other teams who directed racial slurs at Robinson or even tried to injure him (Ben Chapman, the Phillies’ player/manger, and St. Louis catcher Joe Garagiola, now 87. Garagiola later re-invented himself as a genial sportscaster).
Robinson’s allies included Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese, a Southerner; Dodgers’ pitcher Ralph Branca, now 87; and Hall-of-Fame first baseman HANK GREENBERG (1911-86). Branca, a devout Catholic who was the Dodgers’ pitching ace during the 1947 season, found out in 2011 that his late mother was born Jewish. He told the reporter who discovered this fact that maybe her Jewish background led his mother to teach him to be tolerant of people of any background. Branca welcomed Robinson on his first day with a hearty handshake.
Greenberg, unlike the other players above, is not depicted in “42”. However, the details of his friendship with Robinson are found in many sources, including the really terrific 1998 documentary “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” directed by AVIVA KEMPNER. In 1947, Greenberg was the Pirates first baseman (all his prior years were with the Tigers). During a May, 1947 game, Greenberg told Robinson, “Stick in there. You’re doing fine. Keep your chin up.” A couple of days later, Robinson told reporters that Greenberg was his “diamond hero” and “Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg.”
Check Out Tapper (While You Can)
Last month, JAKE TAPPER, 44, started as the host of a new CNN news program, “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” (Airs 4-5 PM, EDT). Tapper, the winner of many journalism awards, was ABC’s Senior White House Correspondent from 2008-2012. The son of a Jewish father and a mother who converted to Judaism, Tapper attended a Philadelphia Jewish Day School. His wife, too, is a Jew-by-Choice, and his sister, a Conservative rabbi, presided over his wedding.
Sadly, Tapper’s early ratings are anemic. “The Lead” is informative. But it is traditional, “middle-of-the-road” reporting. Programs with a host with a strong point of view, like those on MSNBC and Fox News, are crushing CNN in the ratings. As Bill Maher just wryly put it: “For the Left, there is MSNBC; for the Right, there is Fox; for airport lounges, there is CNN.”
CNN has a pattern of recruiting seasoned, quite competent journalists from another network and then has them do a “down-the-middle” newscast that ultimately fails. This is what happened to Paula Zahn (her husband is Jewish and their children are being raised Jewish) and CAMPBELL BROWN, 44, another Jew-by-Choice. Both were heralded when hired as CNN program hosts and then quietly let go for tepid ratings. Tapper appears poised to follow them and that’s a shame.
Odd News Footnote
Last week, came the shocking news that the District Atty. of Kaufman County, Texas, and his wife had been murdered in what appeared to be a pro hit. Two months earlier, a County asst. district attorney was shot and killed in front of the county courthouse. Suspected in the killings is a prison-based white supremacist gang.
If the gang did do the killings, it’s “weird” that it happened in a county named after a Jew. The county is named for attorney DAVID S. KAUFMAN (1813-51), a Princeton-educated son of German Jewish immigrants. Kaufman moved to the newly-independent Republic of Texas in 1837. There he fought (1839) and was seriously wounded in the main battle in a war with the Cherokees. When Texas became a State in 1845, he was elected to Congress and served almost three terms before dying in office. Texas would not send another Jew to Congress until 1979. By the way, natives pronounce Kaufman County’s name this way: “Cough-Man.” I doubt David S. said it that way.