Movie actor Chadwick Boseman died on Jackie Robinson Day on Friday night seven years after portraying the pioneering Hall-of-Fame baseball player in the movie “42”.
That film was Boseman’s on-screen debut. He would go on to star in “Draft Day” with Kevin Costner and, eventually, in Marvel’s “Black Panther”, for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the outstanding cast in a motion picture.
Boseman, a 2000 graduate of Howard University in the District, was 43 and had colon cancer, according to the Associated Press. The news was confirmed on his verified Twitter account.
Robinson, the sports icon who broke the color barrier in 1947 as the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, is honored every year on April 15, the anniversary of his debut in the majors.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible this year. Instead, Aug. 28 was designated as Jackie Robinson Day for 2020. It is the day he met with Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in 1945 and the plan was formulated to get Robinson into the big leagues.
Aug. 28 is also the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington and comes during a summer of protests and boycotts for racial justice since the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd on May 25. Thousands of protesters are in Washington this weekend for a reprisal of Dr. Martin Luther King's original march where he gave his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Boseman drew positive reviews for his portrayal seven years ago of Robinson, whose early years in the majors were fraught with slights and taunts and bigotry from fans, opposing players and coaches and even some of his own teammates.
“Boseman is a fine actor, and he looks like a baseball player in the spring training and game-time sequences,” film critic Richard Roeper wrote in 2013.
Wrote New York Times critic A.O. Scott: [Robinson is] played with sly charm and a hint of stubborn prickliness by Chadwick Boseman."
Boseman studied directing at Howard and took extra acting classes there, according to a 2018 profile in Rolling Stone, to help improve his craft. The school mourned his loss on Friday night.
Boseman's death was announced during Friday night's Dodgers television broadcast by play-by-play team Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser. Every player on the field in the Dodgers-Texas Rangers game in Arlington was wearing No. 42 in Robinson's honor - as they have every year since 2004. Major League Baseball retired the No. 42 across the sport in 1997.