Morneau honored to be in Robinson biopic '42'
APR 15, 2013 8:38p ET
After all, Morneau nearly didn't recognize himself on the big screen when he saw an advanced screening of the film during spring training earlier this year. He was shown on the screen along with several other Major Leaguers during a montage of players wearing the No. 42 jersey, like the Twins, Angels and all other teams in Major League Baseball will be doing on Monday. Morneau was shown from behind as he trotted onto the Target Field grass during a previous Jackie Robinson Day game with his white No. 42 Twins jersey.
Morneau almost didn't recognize himself.
"It was unexpected. My wife looked at me and said, 'That was you.' And it was. I had no idea," Morneau said Monday. "That was pretty cool to be in that, just such an important movie -- not that I really had a role -- but just to see yourself in a movie like that is pretty cool."
The movie "42" was released in theaters on Friday and made more than $27 million at the box office over the weekend. Chadwick Boseman is cast as Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball's color barrier to become the first African-American player in the majors when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Robinson went on to play 10 years in the majors, all with the Dodgers. He was a career .311 hitter and led the league in stolen bases twice. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1947 and was the National League MVP in 1949. Robinson was eventually elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 after receiving 77.5 percent of the votes.
While Robinson's stats were impressive, his impact on the game of baseball transcended what took place in the box scores. He opened the door for generations of minority players to have a chance to play in the majors.
"I think reading books about him and reading more about his life and learning more about his life, I think you kind of understand the impact that he had on not only baseball but the country itself, moving everyone in the right direction towards equality and all the things that he stood for and everything that he helped to improve in this country," Morneau said. "He might be the most important player to ever put on a uniform. It's good that story's being told again and every April 15 we get to celebrate what he meant to this game and this country."
While Morneau had the opportunity to watch an advanced screening of "42" during spring training, not all of his teammates have seen the movie -- or Morneau's big screen debut. His manager, however, said he enjoyed it.
"I saw a couple things there at the end with their jerseys on. He was proud of that. He should be," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Morneau's cameo. "It was a really neat movie. It was emotional for me watching that movie and seeing the history behind Jackie and what he went through."
Twins catcher Joe Mauer said he plans to see the movie but hasn't yet.
"I knew he was in it, but I didn't hear what it was about," said Mauer, one of Morneau's closest friends on the team. "So no major lines or anything?"
Indeed, Morneau didn't have any lines, but he was featured at the end of a film that tells at least part of the story of one of the most influential players in baseball history. Even though he didn't know he was in it, Morneau was proud to share the same screen as the tale that was told in "42."
If only for a brief second.
"It was so quick and I was so surprised when it happened. It was one of those things you weren't really expecting so it takes you back. I'm thinking, 'That's pretty cool, in a movie depicting something so important," Morneau said. "Obviously we're never going to understand the depth of everything that he went through and the difficulties of his time playing baseball. It will be hard for anyone to really comprehend how difficult that was.
"It's kind of hard to capture that in a movie that's an hour and a half or two hours long, but I thought they did a good job of opening peoples' eyes to some of the difficulties."
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