JOPLIN, Mo. — Sherrill Ostermueller-Duesterhaus watched the scene where her father, Fritz Ostermueller, pitches against Jackie Robinson. She didn’t like what she saw.
In the movie, Ostermueller purposely hits Robinson in the head with a fastball. His character then says: “You don’t belong here.”
Now, Ostermueller’s daughter — as well as news accounts at the time of the 1947 incident — says that what happened in the movie never happened on the field. Ostermueller, pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates, actually threw a high inside pitch in the first inning that caught Robinson on the left wrist.
It’s a pivotal scene in “42 — The True Story of an American Legend,” the new movie about Robinson’s rookie year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was meant to convey the overt racism that Robinson faced when he broke baseball’s color barrier, but it comes at great cost for Duesterhaus because her father was portrayed as a bigoted racist.
“There is nothing I can do now but try to set the record straight,” she said. “You know, it’s hard to defend yourself while you are no longer here. I’m just a daughter trying to defend her dad.”
At age 66, she is thankful that she has lived long enough to be able to do that.
“I was 6 months old when it happened,” she said. “I knew about it and that it was important because my mother had told me about it.”
An old newspaper clipping tells the story of how Ostermueller had studied Robinson’s technique and had noticed that Robinson crowded the plate and lunged at every pitch.
Ostermueller said in his account of the incident: “He didn’t give the pitcher much room. I didn’t like that at all because I want my half of the heart of the plate, and no batter, no matter who he is, will crowd me out of my share.