The new Jackie Robinson movie “42” starring Chadwick Boseman, Nicole Beharie and Harrison Ford is getting mixed reviews for its depiction of the man who broke baseball’s color barrier.
But at least one local person is incensed that the Warner Bros. film fails to mention the role played by Sam Lacy, the long-time sports editor and columnist of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, in Robinson’s ascension to the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
“I think it’s a travesty,”Tim Lacy, Sam Lacy’s son, said of his father’s exclusion in “42.” “Because if you know the story, [Sam Lacy] was instrumental in the effort to get that done.”
Tim Lacy, 75, lives in Columbia. On Monday, he recalled how his father, who died in 2003 at the age of 99, shadowed Jackie Robinson from 1946-1949 and chronicled the racism Robinson experienced after being tapped by Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey to be baseball’s first black player.
According to Tim Lacy, it was Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith, sports editor and columnist for the African-American newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier, who lobbied for Robinson to integrate the game. Smith’s role is acknowledged in the movie.
“Jackie was not the first choice,” Tim Lacy said. “Wendell Smith and my dad were the first ones to talk to Rickey and tell him Jackie was the one” best suited for the task.
“Once Jackie was in the major leagues, my dad roomed with him and followed him on the road,” Tim Lacy continued. “I played with Jackie’s kids in spring training in Vero Beach (Fla.)”
Sam Lacy experienced much of the same racism as Robinson in his years on the road with the civil rights icon.
He was barred from press boxes in ballparks, denied rooms in white-owned hotels and saw a cross burned on the lawn of his rooming house in a Southern town.
In a Florida town, while covering Robinson, Sam Lacy once asked for directions to the “colored” restroom and was told to use a tree down the right-field line.
Tim Lacy said he has not yet seen “42.”
“But I will ... eventually,” he said.
Moses Newson, a former “Afro-American” editor who co-wrote Sam Lacy’s autobiography, “Fighting for Fairness,” in 1998, declined to comment on the snub of Lacy in “42,” saying he wanted to see the movie first.
A call to Warner Bros. for a comment was not immediately returned.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun