An Assassination of Character

Aug 18, 2014

In addition to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Fritz Ostermueller played for the Boston Red Sox, pictured here.
Credit Boston Public Library / Flickr

The movie “42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson's first season in the big leagues. The film also portrays former Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller, unfairly cast as a racist.

The movie shows Ostermueller beaning Robinson in the head, which never happened. Baseball writer Richard “Pete” Peterson talks about the unfortunate depiction and how the situation really happened.

He says that Robinson was never hit in the head his entire career.

“None of that happened. The pitch actually hit Robinson in the wrist. He was stunned for a moment, the Dodgers thought that perhaps it had hit him in the head, but it hadn’t. He dusted himself off, he trotted down to first base, and the game went on. He stayed in the game, he delivered a base hit, he had a bunt single, he played the rest of the season.”

Peterson describes how the inaccurate depiction of Ostermueller has affected his family.

“Heartbroken, that’s the best way to describe it. His daughter, Sherrill Duesterhaus, was just stunned, shocked by what happened. I’ve talked to her friends, one of them mentioned that she wept during the course of the film, she couldn’t believe they had done that to Fritz Ostermueller.”

Peterson says Duesterhaus has been in contact with both the MLB and the makers of the film “42.” The Pittsburgh community has been supportive of Duesterhaus, but she has yet to hear back from the commissioner of the league, and the producers of the film have yet to release a statement regarding Ostermueller’s depiction.