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Benjamin Hochman: Cardinals legends Gibson, White and Flood profiled in powerful documentary 'After Jackie'

Benjamin Hochman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Baseball

During a poignant moment in the documentary “After Jackie,” the words of Jackie Robinson catch your attention and your breath: “I think that one day, white Americans are going to take a real good look at themselves and recognize the harm that they're doing to America — not to Black people, but to America.”

These words were said more than 50 years ago, yet could be said today.

“After Jackie” shows us perseverance from the perspective of three great Cardinals, and in doing so, challenges viewers to look at today’s issues from the perspective of a Black American. That’s a particularly important message on this Fourth of July weekend, as Americans celebrate freedom and liberty and justice for all.

“After Jackie” is on the History Channel this month, and you can watch it online (play.history.com/specials/after-jackie/full-special). To truly and accurately tell the story of baseball after Jackie Robinson — the ups and downs, the positives and negatives, the encouraging courage and discouraging dissension — the filmmakers zoomed in on St. Louis.

“After Jackie” tells the stories of Bob Gibson, Bill White and Curt Flood, teammates on the 1964 World Series champion Cardinals. Directed by Andre Gaines, and with help from executive producer LeBron James, the film features interviews with famous names, from Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., to perennial All-Star Mookie Betts to current Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty. And there is footage from a powerful, late-in-life interview with Gibson, who passed away on Oct. 2, 2020.

“There were all sorts of problems back in those days,” said Gibson, who played from 1959-1975. “And you were expected to perform with all of these other problems away from the field, which certainly weighed on you.”

 

The first 20 minutes of the documentary focus just on Jackie. And the remaining 65 minutes detail travails and prevails of Gibson, White and Flood, while weaving in Robinson’s influence on all three. And, sure, some Cardinals fans have heard some of these stories over the years, but having these stories strung together in one documentary is significant.

As for Gibson, who became an iconic Cardinal, one can wonder how his career would’ve unspooled if the club didn’t fire manager Solly Hemus?

“It was tough for me to realize that I was working for somebody that didn't like me because I was Black,” said Gibson, who was often relegated to bullpen work in the early years. “I just couldn't fathom that. …

“My personality, and what I was, is as a result of what happens around you. And a lot of times when you come into the ballpark and you're in a nasty mood and you start reflecting on your childhood and what has happened over the years — it has a great effect on you.”

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