“Method actor”

Jerry Tipton, the long-time Kentucky beat writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader and a member of the USBWA hall of fame, writes one of the most comprehensive Sunday notes columns you’ll read anywhere. He was nice enough to include me on Sunday, April 28, after he’d heard about my small role in the Jackie Robinson biopic 42. Here’s what Jerry wrote. You can read the entire column here.

‘Method actor’

Sportswriter Chris Dortch, most noted as editor of the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, appears in the movie 42. In an example of conservative casting, he plays a sportswriter.

“There was an open casting call seeking experienced sportswriters to play roles in the movie,” Dortch wrote in an email message. ” … Part of the movie was filmed in Chattanooga, at historic Engel Stadium, so it was easy for me to get to the set and work the long hours the gig required.

“I just pitched myself as a baseball fan (the first sport I loved, long since replaced by college basketball) and an admirer of Jackie Robinson, plus my many years as an ink-stained wretch. By coincidence, I had read a Jackie Robinson biography a year before. So I was well versed on my Jackie Robinson lore.

“I sent in my résumé and a few pictures and they called and told me I got the gig.

“It was one of the neatest things I’ve ever done, and one of the toughest. My costume was a vintage 40s-era wool suit and hat, so suffice it to say, it got a little heated at times while filming in 90-degree temperatures. No work day was shorter than 14 hours, and a couple were closer to 16.

“But I got a rare and unique view of the process of making a movie. And better still, it was almost as though I got to go back in time and experience what it was like for Jackie Robinson. I was a fan already, but being on the movie set gave me an even greater appreciation for him, what he went through and what he did for not just baseball, but all of sports.

So I was grateful for the chance to be a part of that.”

Dortch participated in three days of filming.

“I was a method actor,” he wrote. “I just pretended I was in a real-life press conference situation, like maybe at a Kentucky basketball game, with media all around a player. In order to be able to hear that player or record him, you have to get as close as you can. I did the same thing in the movie.”

Dortch noted that Robinson was an accomplished college basketball player for UCLA. He led the Pacific Coast Conference’s Southern Division in scoring in both 1940 (12.4 average in 12 league games) and 1941 (11.1 average in 12 league games) and was chosen All-PCC Southern Division in 1940.