The film “42,” starring Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman comes out this weekend. It’s the story of Jackie Robinson and his history-making year as the first black player to ever play major league baseball. And it turns out a couple notable Northwest names played a part in his story.
Robinson died in 1972 at the age of 53 and one of Mercer Island’s own was a pallbearer at his funeral.
“I had the good fortune of meeting him early in my professional career. It was one of the few times I could hardly speak, I was so overcome with the honor,” NBA legend and former Sonics Coach Bill Russell said on MSNBC earlier this week.
Russell detailed his admiration for Robinson and how the baseball star influenced his battle against racism as a Boston Celtic.
“When I started my professional career, I was not going to revisit from A to B where he took us. I was going to go from B to C. That’s why I was determined to always conduct myself as a man and to go further in basketball than he went in baseball.”
And there’s one more local tie to Jackie Robinson.
Mariners fans well remember M’s General Manager Bill Bavasi, who many feel ruined a winning team with a series of terrible trades and free agent signings. But be that as it may, his father, Buzzie Bavasi, was also a longtime baseball executive, starting his career working for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team that gave Jackie Robinson the opportunity to be the first black player in the majors.
Once Bavasi attended a Royals game and sat behind the players’ wives section, where he observed the impressive Rachel Robinson, wife of the baseball hero, who appeared to be a leader and confidant of the other women. Bavasi told Dodger general manager Branch Rickey that if Jackie Robinson was good enough for his wife, Rachel, he was good enough for Bavasi, and the Dodgers.