KC rolls out the red carpet for '42' premiere
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Red carpet? Check. Paparazzi? Check. Movie stars? Check. Baseball legends? Check. Ladies and gentlemen dressed to the nines? Check.
Frigid temps aside, the AMC BarryWoods 24 movie complex had everything you could’ve asked for early Thursday night.
Everything that is, except for Buck O’Neill.
“Oh, man, he’d be in hog heaven,” Bob Kendrick, president of the nearby Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said as he headed to a special premiere of the new movie “42” in north Kansas City.
“He would be loving this. He would be strutting, he’d be hugging, you know, and you can’t help but reflect on that.”
O’Neill, a Kansas City icon from his days as a player/manager with the Negro League Monarchs and later as one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors, passed away in 2006, at the age of 94. “42,” which details the racial integration of Major League Baseball and the personal triumphs of Jackie Robinson, would have been a picture close to Buck’s heart.
After all, he lived it.
“The red carpet, this is exactly his kind of event, there’s no question,” Kendrick continued. “And so he’d be excited. And proud.”
Buck always was the life of the party, and the scene at the suburban multiplex, roughly 12 miles north of downtown Kansas City, was some kind of soiree: Fans lined up for hours to get a glimpse of screen giant Harrison Ford, who played the role of Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in the film. Ford, actors Chadwick Boseman (who plays Robinson) and Andre Holland were on hand for the event, signing autographs for squealing fans and posing for line after line of photographers.
The red carpet didn’t lack for celebrity traffic, either, as Robinson’s son, David; Royals icons such as George Brett and Frank White; and several current Royals players and staffers also attended the screening.
“Obviously, the whole Jackie Robinson thing is something you want to be a part of,” Royals second baseman Chris Getz told FOX Sports Kansas City. “But then it’s cool just (to see) what they put together here. And to have (Ford) come out just makes it a little bit cooler.”
Robinson’s ties to the metro run deep — during World War II, he was stationed for a time at Fort Riley, Kan., and played professionally with the Monarchs in 1945, agreeing to a contract with a reported salary of $400. He was signed by the Dodgers later that year, and made his historic Major-League debut on April 15, 1947.
The film, which is slated to open nationwide on Friday, had earlier premieres in Los Angeles and New York and was screened in the White House for President Obama last week.
Proceeds from Thursday’s event were designated for the Negro Leagues museum, and even current Kansas City baseball stars, such as Billy Butler, admitted to being a little star-struck once they realized they’d be rubbing shoulders during the team’s off night with an actor as renowned as Ford.
“I don’t know how exciting this has been yet,” Butler chuckled before entering the theater. “The All-Star Game (last summer in Kansas City) was obviously intense, so it’s going to have to be good to beat that. I’ve got my sights set high. It might beat it.”
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