Liz Smith: Baseball Changes Color

jackie-robinson-sliding“NOBODY goes there anymore; it’s too crowded!” once said Yogi Berra of a popular watering hole, in his usual explanatory manner.

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SPEAKING  of baseball  — as we so seldom do here —  let’s think back to the Academy Awards which only took place a few months ago. Quick! Who won what? I know, I know — how quickly we forget. But already the nominees are being considered for the Oscars that will happen in 2014. And one that is bound to stir up emotions is the coming movie “42″.

stripThis is the inspirational story of baseball great Jackie Robinson and his rise as the first African American to play in the whiter-than-white major leagues. America was approaching the 1950s when all this happened and The New York Brooklyn Dodgers put themselves on the map.

The film will trace Jackie’s life and how he was encouraged by his coach, the famous Branch Rickey. And the best thing is the role will be played by none other than that good actor Harrison Ford. The young leading man, Chadwick Boseman, is the talented, determined and very brave Jackie who faced so many ugly situations as he fought for his right to play baseball.

Robinson also went on to become the first black TV analyst, the first black VP of a major American corporation and to help establish the Freedom National Bank. He was a great gentleman, a great sportsman, and his courage made a huge cultural impact.

Buzz on this movie based on Jackie’s uniform number, is already impressive. There is actual Oscar talk for both actors Ford and Boseman. And my old friend, Chris Meloni, he of “Law & Order,” has a strong role as the ornery Leo Durocher.

It is much too early for predictions. But it’s always fun to be able to say”You heard it here first.” Just remember, you did hear it here first!

61ZxkKZGY1L__SS500_BE SURE to take a look in book stores on April 15that a brand new children’s book on Jackie Robinson titled “Jackie and Me: A Very Special Friendship.” This has a charming cover by artist Charles George Esperanza and was written by one of my all-time pals, Tania Grossinger.

She was 13 years old when Jackie came to the Catskills to the famed resort hotel owned by her family. They played ping pong together and enjoyed a life long relationship. Sky Pony Press is publishing this on the same day the movie is released.

Once upon a time, New Yorkers went to Grossingers annually if they could afford it. There, all the famed comics and the rising singers went to practice before hitting Manhattan. This is a nostalgic little book about real friendship and the courage it took to break the color race barrier.

THE opening night of “Lucky Guy” I had hurried to my seat on the aisle right down in the second row at the Broadhurst so I missed the red carpet and most of the celebrities crowding the theater for Tom Hanks.

lucky guyWho should I find next to me but the charming Camryn Manheim. You remember this masterful actress from her unusual appearances on the hit series, “The Practice” where she was one of the first imposing, tall and possibly a bit overweight performers in TV to put her mark on individualism.

Cameron studied drama at New York University and teaches the technique called Practical Aesthetics. She told me she was in New York to read for a new play written by Tony Kushner. I was impressed. Cameron is very talented and so is playwright Kushner!

You may be wondering who was the guy who took me to this opening night. I like introducing him around. He is Billy Norwich and you see his byline all the time in Vogue and Vanity Fair. I became a mentor to Mr. Norwich when he graduated from college and I am very proud of his success. He usually goes about with important people like Anna Wintour, but he was my date for “Lucky Guy” and I felt like a “Lucky Gal!”

Billy and I didn’t go to the opening night party with all the VIPs. We had a lot of catching up to do so thought of trying for Sardi’s, Joe Allen’s, Barbetta, or Orso. But these cafes were all closed as it was a usually non-theater Monday night. So we lucked into Guy’s American Kitchen right off Times Square at 220 West 44th Street. The hamburgers and tortilla soup and Margaritas are just right.

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COMING home from taping for Fox News “Lips & Ears” show this week I ran into an old friend in my neighborhood. He is Gary Garrett, a former stylist from Dallas, who moved to Manhattan years ago because he liked New York better than Texas. He and his partner Bill Laughlin have lived here ever since keeping restaurants, theater, ballet, concerts, art galleries and museums busy. Gary and I went right into the El Rio Grande cafe which is on the main floor of my apartment building and we had the waiter immortalize us. Just two Texans. Gary loves to Twitter; I don’t.

But I am trying to learn how to keep up. My Twitter handle is @LizSmth. (Omit the ‘i’ from Smith.)

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This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 4/4/13

One comment so far.

  1. avatar Rho says:

    Thank you Liz.  Jackie is my hero of baseball of all time.  I used to talk to him when he worked for Chock Full ‘o Nuts, I worked across the street, we would talk on our lunch hour.