It’s been 70 years since Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
His story has been well chronicled in Hollywood including the 2013 film 42. But Robinson, who died in 1972, was hardly alone in his struggle.
A new documentary, A Long Way from Home: The Untold Story of Baseball's Desegregation, chronicles the experiences of African-American and Afro-Latino players who followed Robinson’s footsteps into baseball.
Directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Gaspar González (Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami, Havana House), the film features interviews with pioneering players such as Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Grover “Deacon” Jones, Jimmy Wynn, Orlando Cepeda, and Tony Pérez, who often played their minor-league ball in small, remote towns where racial segregation remained a fact of life well into the 1960s.
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Jones, who spent 11 years in the minors, was one of many men of color who dealt with inferior accommodations, the scorn of white teammates, and racist threats on and off the field to pursue his big-league dreams. In doing so he and others played a significant and underappreciated role in making America’s pastime open to all.
“[In] Charleston, South Carolina, they used to shoot BB guns at us black guys, trying to hit us in the butt or the back,” Jones says in the film. “That’s the way it was.”
In addition to Perez, a Hall of Famer and special assistant with the Miami Marlins, two other interviewees in the film with Miami connections include Cookie Rojas and Orlando Peña.
The advisors of the film, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities include, Matthew Frye Jacobson and Jonathan Holloway, distinguished members of the history faculty at Yale University.
A free public screening of A Long Way from Home will take place at the Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Avenue) at 7 p.m. Tuesday night.
Following the screening, the Miami Herald’s Linda Robertson will moderate a Q&A between Gonalez, Jacobson, and the audience.