'42' hits theaters

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April 12, 2013, 8:23 pm
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(NECN/NBC News: Mark Barger) - Monday marks the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's "color barrier" to become its first black player.

The turmoil that surrounded that milestone plays out in the new movie "42".

Chadwick Boseman talked about portraying the majors' first black player at a premiere Thursday night in Kansas City.

"There's pressure because a lot of people have a stake in it," he said, "and it's pressure
because you want to live up to the family as well."

Robinson's sterling debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers earned him Rookie of the Year honors in 1947, but as the film illustrates, in a then still-segregated society Robinson had to overcome racist taunts, hate mail and death threats.

"It's not just about the individual, it's about, he was in there struggling for the larger mission," his daughter, Sharon Robinson, now says.

Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey, the Dodgers' general manager who gave Robinson a chance when others wouldn't.

"This is a country with very high ideals, when we don't attend to them," Ford says. "It's our responsibility to change our behavior."

Number 42 helped drive that change, both on the field and off.

"I believe he would hope, that the showing of his film and the remembrance of his story would be an empowering element in people's lives," son David Robinson says.

Thanks in part to Robinson, by the 1970s African Americans accounted for 27 percent of all Major Leaguers.

This season that figure's down to less than 8 percent, as African Americans are increasingly attracted to other pro sports, including basketball.

Earlier this week, MLB announced formation of a diversity task force to try to boost baseball's African-American representation.

Tags: Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, Mark Barger, 42, Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford
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