PITTSFIELD -- When Mildred Persip saw Jackie Robinson -- or rather, an actor portraying him -- play baseball in the new film "42," it was a blast from the past for the 99-year-old baseball fan.

Whether it was her throwing the first pitch at a baseball game at Wahconah Park for her 98th birthday, or going through her stacks of souvenirs that she's collected over the years, Persip always has baseball on her mind.

That's why she made a rare trip to a movie theater last weekend to see "42," the country's No. 1 movie box-office draw and biography of Robinson, the player who broke Major League Baseball's race barrier in 1947.

"I wanted to see if it was what people said it would be," Persip said. "It was a very good picture."

A few days later, Persip showed The Eagle a collection of signed portraits that she had of Brooklyn Dodgers players including Pee Wee Reese and Robinson.

"I used to love to see him steal home base," Persip recalled. "I would stay in Brooklyn with some friends, then I'd go to the games."

In a large book about baseball, Persip had bookmarked a photo of Robinson sliding into home plate.

Other baseball souvenirs that Persip had was an envelope full of ticket stubs from World Series games. Almost all of the tickets were for standing-room only.

"Sometimes I didn't have anyone to go with, so I'd go by myself," Persip said.

When not traveling to Ebbets Field as a teenager, Persip would join her father, an umpire, at baseball games in Pittsfield.

"Everything's baseball with her," said Michelle Johnston, the sister-in-law of Persip's niece.

Johnston, who calls Persip "Aunt Millie," was one of the family members who accompanied Persip to "42" for a matinee showing last weekend.

Eddie Taylor, Persip's great-nephew, also accompanied Persip to the showing of "42," and recalled making the grave mistake of wearing a Yankees hat in front of her.

"As soon as I got her out of the car, she said ‘I can't be your friend today,' " Taylor recalled. "Baseball runs deep in our family."

Johnston took her to see "Identity Thief" earlier this year, the first time Persip had been to the movies since tickets were a quarter, Johnston said.

Between "Identity Thief" and "42," there was no question which one Persip enjoyed more: "42."

"That movie was her passion," Johnston said.

The movie opened with more than $27 million dollars at the domestic box office last weekend, the highest-grossing opening weekend for a baseball movie, according to the website Box Office Mojo. It stars Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey and Chadwick Boseman as Robinson.

"I thought he did a good job," Persip said. "I thought it was all good."

To reach Adam Poulisse:
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