How Many 42s in "42?"


"42," the new biographical film about the life of the great Jackie Robinson, opens this week—66 years after his 1947 debut as a Brooklyn Dodger.

The movie looks great—the stadiums depicted in the film, the on-field uniforms and headwear, the period signage and wardrobe—all were obviously researched and deployed with an eye for detail and historic, era-specific accuracy.

In seeing advertisements and billboards for the film, one thing has been jumping out to me. The simple title of the movie is represented by a sans-serif, athletic block "42." Yet in seemingly every depiction of Robinson in conjunction with this film he is wearing a decidedly different "42"—one with serifs.

42 Poster

I'd like to know why the good folks at Warner Bros. didn't opt to stick with one unified variation when used in conjunction with each other. Once I saw this I haven't been able to stop seeing it. It looks like a mistake, especially considering the thorough attention to visual detail with regard to everything else in the movie.

The Dodgers' jerseys were manufactured by a number of different vendors in the Jackie era— Spalding, Wilson, Rawlings, and MacGregor Gold-Smith. Each of these companies often supplied home jerseys one year and road jerseys the next—although both Rawlings AND MacGregor produced jerseys for the club in 1952. Font styles varied subtly from supplier to supplier from year to year.

While all of this has been gnawing away at me I did a very cursory search of what "42s" Jackie Robinson wore during the course of his 10 Major League seasons. Note the fact that the Dodgers became the first MLB team to put numbers on the fronts of their jerseys in 1952, halfway through Jackie's Brooklyn career. That said, the logo version of "42" clearly represents the number on the back of a jersey.

Jackie 01

These photos are culled from a range of years during his career (1947-1956.)

Jackie 02

Finally, here are three images, all from the 1955 World Series, featuring three different "42s"—the image at right showing Robinson and the Dodgers celebrating the last out of the 1955 World Series, their only championship in Brooklyn.

Jackie 03

One more interesting note—Jackie Robinson, over the course of his Major League career, never wore anything other than the word "Dodgers" on the front of his uniform. On December 13, 1956 Robinson was traded by the Dodgers to the New York Giants for Dick Littlefield and $30,000. He refused to report to his new team and the trade was voided. Robinson retired from baseball and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.