Friday, April 15, 2016

Ken Burns's Jackie Robinson

I watched the first part of PBS's Jackie Robinson special, and will try to watch part 2 this weekend. I remember watching the movie 42 a few years ago, so some of the material is familiar to me, but it's still interesting to see the real life history as opposed to the biopic's dramatization, where they didn't have time to do more than a general introduction to Jackie's life. I don't personally know a lot about baseball, though I know the names of many famous ballplayers due to cultural exposure from movies like Field of Dreams. It's interesting to learn that major league baseball was under political pressure from many groups after World War II, including black newspapers and Communists, to integrate. So Branch Rickey was actually trying to announce his recruitment of Jackie Robinson quickly, so he could have credit for integrating baseball himself, rather than reluctantly bowing to outside forces.

Ken Burns includes other interesting stories, such as Jackie's older brother going to the 1936 Olympics with Jesse Owens, yet not being able to get good work when he came home. There's a lot of mentions of other black athlete pioneers such as boxer Joe Louis who helped Jackie get into officer candidate school while in the army. Speaking of Jackie's military service in WWII, he got into trouble for refusing to sit at the back of a bus in Texas, yet he managed to get acquitted at his trial and be honorably discharged. What's nice is that Branch Rickey must have researched Jackie's life and known of his past incidents of fighting discrimination, but that didn't make Branch reject Jackie for a safer athlete who wouldn't stir controversy. Still, Jackie had to endure a lot of abuse during his first two seasons, forced to hold his tongue and not retaliate so that public opinion would be changed. I'm sure there will be more civil rights action in part 2 when we get to his post-baseball life.

Meanwhile, I read a couple of online stories that made me smile yesterday. First, Inky the Octopus escaped from a New Zealand aquarium, squeezing down a drain to reach the ocean. Sure, the aquarium people were good, helping Inky to recover from a traumatic injury, but after he got well, Inky must have yearned for freedom, and I'm glad that the aquarium people were happy for his escape. Octopuses are intelligent and remarkable animals, as I've learned from some PBS nature shows. The other story was about an investigation in Loch Ness of an underwater trench that was recently discovered. Then a drone found a movie prop of the Nessie monster, and best of all, it was from Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes! In the movie, Mycroft uses the fake monster head to disguise some secret submarine testing that's occurring in the lake. I still love that movie very much, and it's funny to think that their long lost prop turned up at last.

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