Robinson, Dodger fan excited about film

LEWISTOWN – Lou Silverman might live in central Pennsylvania, but his baseball heart is in Los Angeles – or to be more accurate, Brooklyn.

Silverman, who lives outside State College, is the owner of the Miller Theater. Lewistown Entertainment Corp. is the operator of the theater. A number of Mifflin-Juniata county baseball and other sports figures will be attending regular showings of ’42’ at the Miller Cinemas 6 over its two-week engagment, which begins Friday.

Silverman, a former attorney, can’t wait until the movie “42” opens up in Lewistown. But it’s a story he doesn’t need to see on the big screen – he saw it unfold in real life.

As a young man growing up in Altoona, Silverman and his brother became Brookyln Dodger fans.

“We liked losers, we liked the underdog and back in those days (the 1940s), Brooklyn was one of the worst teams in the major leagues. For that reason, we latched onto the Dodgers and to this day we are still Dodger fans.”

The movie is about the first two years of Jackie Robinson’s life in the major leagues and how he overcame the prejudice’s of society. Robinson was the first black player to play on a major league team.

“We went to Ebbets Field with our dad and sat in the outfield,” Silverman recalls.

Ebbets Field is long gone. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957. Robinson spent his whole career playing in Brooklyn.

The two stars of the film are Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson, and Harrison Ford, who plays Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers who made the bold move to take Robinson out the Negro League and put him into the majors.

Branch knew that the Negro League ballplayers were good, Silverman said. He’s said to have picked Robinson because he believed he could handle the pressure and attacks that were sure to come his way.

Silverman said it’s hard for small-town theaters to get first-run films, but he pushed for this one both because of Lewistown’s rich baseball history and because of his own passion for the story. The film opened nationally April 12.

“We were supposed to see it this weekend with one of my closest friends who’s also a sports addict, and he fell sick,” Silverman said. “I’ve been pushing our booking people to get the picture.”

The film will be shown twice each on Friday and Saturday evening, one show Sunday evening and matinees Saturday and Sunday, and then one show each night Monday through Thursday. It runs about two hours and carries a PG-13 rating.

Robinson was born to a family of Georgia sharecroppers, and early in life excelled at sports. He attended UCLA, where he was the first athlete to letter in four sports. Finances forced him to leave college and join the Army, then played with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League.

Rickey signed him to the Dodgers, breaking a color barrier that had been in place since 1889, when baseball became segregated. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1947, and the NL MVP and batting champ two years later. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

He died 10 years later.

When the Dodgers moved to the West Coast, Silverman continued to be a dedicated Dodgers fan.

In 201l, his wife gave him a surprise of a lifetime. The Dodgers were managed then by Joe Torre, a big backer of Margaret’s House, which is named for his mother and is a charity for battered women.

A charity gathering was held at the Los Angeles Staples Center and Silverman’s wife got tickets for the two of them and they flew out to Dodger land.

The biggest thrill was that one of the special guests that night was Sandy Koufax, who very seldom is seen in public. Koufax, who started his Dodger career in Brooklyn and played from 1955 to 1966, was a Hall of Fame pitcher who led Los Angeles to three World Series championships and four National League titles.

“As I was going into the Staples Center I ran into an elderly gentlman, who also happened to be an attorney,” Silverman recounted. “We hit it off and he knew some of the Dodgers and he introduced me Tommy Davis, Don Newcombe and (Sandy) Koufax.”

Silverman also pointed out that Ken Burns, the noted PBS film maker, is planning to a documentary on Robinson as Burns feels that Robinson was one of the leading men in the segeration battles of the 21st century.

On Monday, it was ‘Jackie Robinson’ Day in the major leagues and all the players wore number 42. April 15, 1947, was the date that Robinson entered the major leagues.

At the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown last weekend, it also was Jackie Robinson Day.

Actor Gregory Gibson Kenney of Pittsburgh portrayed Robinson, from his youth in Pasadena, Calif., to the end of his playing days as a Dodger.

Also at the Hall of Fame, special artifacts concerning Robinson’s life were brought out including a silver tray from Robinson’s last All-Star appearance in 1954 and Robinson’s hat from the clinching game of the 1955 World Series.