And so, in the finished movie, a child asks about the balk.
On the field in the early days, Jackie Robinson couldn't react to outrageous heckling, in part because of his own dignity but also so as not to undermine the man who had risked hiring him, Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, played in the movie by Ford.
Boseman said he used acting techniques he learned in college to play the role, but not to understand the outlook of the first black major leaguer. "I probably drew from other things that maybe I didn't experience at Howard because it was predominantly black," he said.
To approximate Robinson's experience, Boseman isolated himself from certain actors, notably the one who plays Philadelphia Phillies Manager Ben Chapman, who tries to rattle the Dodgers rookie with a torrent of racial invective.
"I didn't talk to Alan Tudyk," Boseman said. "If you've seen that scene, you know that I could not have a cordial relationship with him. . . . I told him when I met him, 'I'm not going to talk to you for the rest of the movie.' And he understood that."
The actor already had bonded with the other actors, however, during "spring training" in Los Angeles, where the actors who were to portray baseball players studied the fundamentals for several months.
"I had to practice with these other guys from the middle of January to May," Boseman said. "And I wanted to see what it felt like to be on a team."
Boseman observed film of Robinson to learn how he moved on the field. But his principal trainer, Dennis Reitz, "wasn't really concerned with what plays we had to do in the movie. In most cases, I think they'd say, 'You have to do this exact play.' But he was adamant that you need to be prepared for anything."
Working on "42," Boseman came to appreciate what he calls the "theatricality" of sports, and relished a scene he played with Ford in the tunnel leading to the field.
"It was one of the most intimate moments we had in the movie," he recalled. "The camera crew is at the end of the tunnel. . . . People began to gather around the seats above the tunnel to listen to each take. When we would finish and I would come out, they would applaud. Every time. It was like a play. It was not like we were doing a film anymore."
That feeling of closeness is one of the things Boseman likes best about "42." He applauded Helgeland for "not shooting from the stadium. He's shooting it from inside the game. On the bases. At eye level. I think he wanted you to get inside this moment."
"The movie is epic," Boseman said, "but it's also subtle."
Not unlike the character he plays.