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Luther Williams Field standing in for City Island Ballpark

City Island Ballpark, Daytona

The filming of the movie 42 has moved to Macon, where Luther Williams Field is standing in for Daytona’s City Island Ballpark, where Jackie Robinson crossed the color line during spring training.

The movie, starring Harrison Ford, details how baseball was integrated thanks to the efforts of Branch Rickey (portrayed by Harrison). Also in the cast: Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. (Real-life players in the era portrayed by actors in the film include notables like Bobby Bragan, Pee Wee Reese, Ralph Branca and Clyde Sukeforth, the man who scouted and signed Robinson.) The movie is slated for a 2013 release.

Interestingly, City Island Ballpark still stands; it’s now known as Jackie Robinson Ballpark and is home to the Daytona Cubs (High Class A; Florida State League). There’s a large outdoor exhibit exhibit there dedicated to the history made in Daytona. From our visit to the ballpark:

Daytona officials and team owners have been working to stress the historic part of the ballpark, which could end up leading to some changes to the park in the future. The history is significant: It was at this ballpark that Jackie Robinson actually broke the color line in baseball when he played in a spring-training exhibition as a member of the Montreal Royales of the International League in March 1946, his first stop before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1946 the Dodgers and the Royales were turned away from several previously scheduled spring-training exhibitions when word got out that Robinson was to take the field for the Royales: In Sanford, the police chief threatened to stop the game if Robinson did not leave the field; in Jacksonville, the stadium was padlocked shut on game day, and in nearby DeLand the scheduled day game was called off on account of faulty electrical lighting. However, Robinson and the Royales were allowed to take the field in Daytona, and the following season Robinson broke the color line at the major-league level. The city named the ballpark after Robinson in 1988, and the stadium was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in November 1988.

If you look closely at the above postcard, you can see the two distinct seating areas. During the era portrayed in the field, the ballpark was segregated: white patrons sat underneath the canopy (which still exists today), but the segregated area down the third-base line (built to conform with Florida’s Jim Crow laws) didn’t offer the luxury of any cover during hot Florida days. It will be interesting how the ballpark is portrayed: Luther Williams Field doesn’t have the same grandstand configuration.

Some of the movie has already been filmed at Chatanooga’s historic Engel Field.


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