KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City was announced Wednesday as the host site for the only advance public screenings of a film chronicling the rise of Jackie Robinson, a nod to the city where the baseball great made his professional debut two years before breaking the major league color barrier.
Harrison Ford stars as former Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey in the film, "42," which details Robinson's Rookie of the Year season in 1947 while combating unabashed racism on and off the diamond.
Ford and fellow cast member Andre Holland planned to attend the screenings on April 11 at a movie theater on the city's north side. Proceeds will benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, museum president Bob Kendrick said.
Although the story of Robinson in Brooklyn is well known, Kendrick said Kansas City also played a prominent role in his early career. Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs, a member of the Negro Leagues, in 1945, batting .387 while hitting five home runs and stole 13 bases in 47 games. After a year in the minor leagues, he joined the Dodgers in 1947 and won the inaugural Rookie of the Year award.
The film gets its name from Robinson's uniform No. 42, which is retired throughout baseball and prominently displayed at major league stadiums
Kendrick said Robinson's story "signaled the beginning of what we know as the civil rights movement" and was a source of pride for Kansas City.
"This film gives us the opportunity to collectively stick out our chest," Kendrick said Wednesday at a news conference at the museum.
Other than the official premiere in Los Angeles, the movie will be shown only in Kansas City prior to its nationwide opening April 12, which is three days before the 66th anniversary of Robinson's first game as a Dodger.
The Negro Leagues museum is in the midst of a revival after falling on hard times following the death in 2006 of one of its founders, former Kansas City Monarchs star Buck O'Neil. Only blocks from where the Monarchs took the field at Municipal Stadium, the museum sits adjacent to the American Jazz Museum in the heart of the city's 18th and Vine District. After nearly being forced to close in 2010 after it started losing money, the museum got a huge boost last year when Kansas City hosted the major league All-Star Game.
Kendrick said the exposure "42" brings to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will be as important as the financial windfall from the advance screenings.
"We're often asked here if Jackie Robinson was the best player in the Negro Leagues," Kendrick said. "No, he wasn't. He may not have been the best player on our Kansas City Monarchs team. But he was the right man" to break the color barrier.
The Overland Park, Kan., financial planning company Waddell & Reed was instrumental in bringing the screenings to Kansas City, taking advantage of its relationship with Legendary Pictures - which along with Warner Bros. Pictures produced the movie - to arrange them.
Thomas Butch, executive president of Waddell & Reed, said the $42 tickets include unlimited concessions, two adult drink tickets and a souvenir bag and has a total value of $70. He said "42" is the only movie that will be shown at the BarryWoods 24 complex on the night of the screenings.