Actor and playwright Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Jackie Robinson in the 2013 motion picture “42” before starring as T’Challa in “Black Panther,” has died after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was 43.
Boseman died at his home in California with his family by his side, according to a post on his Twitter page.
Friday was Jackie Robinson Day across MLB, delayed from its traditional April 15 date because of the coronavirus pandemic. Baseball each year commemorates Robinson ending segregation in the game in 1947 as a member of the Dodgers. It was also the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s meeting with Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in 1945, at which Rickey determined Robinson was the man to break the sport’s color barrier.
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Boseman helped to present an updated version of Robinson’s story for the silver screen seven years ago. (Read SN’s review here.) He drew praise for his athletic ability in the role; the high school basketball standout worked hard to resemble a major league player for the action scenes in “42.” A sample of what that training entailed:
Boseman knew well what Robinson meant to baseball and American life.
“The story is relevant because we still stand on his shoulders. He started something — I would even say maybe he didn’t even start it, it started before him. But he carried the torch. And he carried it alone for a period of time before other people could help him,” he said (per his IMDb page).
MLB noted Boseman’s death in a tweet late Friday:
We are devastated by the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. His transcendent performance in “42” will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come. pic.twitter.com/8oU7QpdLSE
— MLB (@MLB) August 29, 2020
The Dodgers paid tribute to Boseman, as well.
From playing legendary figures to becoming one, we’ll never forget your iconic performance as Jackie Robinson and your many inspiring roles. You will be missed, Chadwick Boseman. pic.twitter.com/NY2sKMcJIb
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 29, 2020
Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen remembered Boseman for his humility.
I met you at the premier of 42 in Pittsburgh in 2013. Even though you were in the spotlight and all eyes were on you, I remember you saying, “I’m that one that’s starstruck by all of these athletes here.” That’s the man you were. Humble. You will be missed. RIP Chadwick Boseman pic.twitter.com/ypJc1yUq9p
— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) August 29, 2020
Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Museum, recalled giving Boseman and Harrison Ford a tour of the museum when “42” premiered. Ford played Dodgers executive Branch Rickey in the movie.
Boseman’s biographical roles also included music legend James Brown in “Get on Up” and Thurgood Marshall, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice, in “Marshall.”