Quincy native's family: "42" got it wrong

Posted Online: April 30, 2013, 8:24 pm
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By Don O'Brien
At first, Sherill Duesterhaus didn¹t have plans to see the blockbuster movie"42," which chronicles how Jackie Robinson broke baseball¹s color barrier in1947.

Duesterhaus, a Quincy native, is a huge baseball fan. Her father, Frederick"Fritz" Ostermueller, is one of the few people from Quincy who have playedMajor League Baseball. He was in the twilight of a 15-year career, pitchingfor the Pittsburgh Pirates, during Robinson¹s rookie season with theBrooklyn Dodgers.

Ostermueller plays a key role in "42," which opened to high praise and hugebox office numbers earlier this past month. However, that role that won¹t win himmany fans in theatres around America. He is one of two villains in the film.Duesterhaus, who is retired and now lives in Joplin, Mo., says her fatherwas wrongly portrayed.

"I was shocked and hurt with the way they are portraying him," she said."It¹s Hollywood sensationalism, if you ask me."

Ostermueller, whose role is played by Linc Hand, is shown twice during thefilm. He first is introduced during a game early in the season. The sequenceshows Ostermueller beaning Robinson with a pitch.

Records show Ostermueller did hit Robinson with a pitch in a game on May 17,1947. In the movie, the ball hit Robinson near his left temple. In reality,the ball hit Robinson¹s arm as he tried to protect himself from the ball. Hewas never hit in the head.

Frankie Gustine, a teammate of Ostermueller¹s, apologized to Robinson whenhe reached first base later in the game, according to an account of the gamewritten by Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier.

"I¹m sure he didn¹t mean it," Gustine told Robinson.

Duesterhaus had asked her mother, Faye, about that incident before.

"I don¹t think it had anything to do with who (Robinson) was," Duesterhaussaid. "From what my Mom told me, (Robinson) was crowding the plate, and Dadwas trying to brush him back."

That at-bat was just the start of the creative license filmmakers took withOstermueller¹s role in games played between the Pirates and Dodgers thatyear.

The last scene of the movie has Robinson facing Ostermueller again. Theproducers painted a picture that the pennant was on the line for the Dodgersduring a game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Ostermueller throws anotherbeanball at Robinson, then tells him after the near miss that he didn¹tbelong in the big leagues.

Soon after that, Robinson hits a dramatic home run that lifts the Dodgers tothe pennant.

Yes, Robinson did hit a home run off Ostermueller late in that season. Ithappened in the fourth inning of a game on Sept. 17, a 4-2 Brooklyn victory.However, the Dodgers didn¹t clinch the pennant until Sept. 22.

The movie¹s producers couldn¹t even get which hand Ostermueller threw theball with correctly. He threw left-handed, while the actor who plays him inthe field throws right-handed throughout the film.

"It just really upsets me," Duesterhaus said. "He was such a good guy.

"Maybe what also upsets me is that fact in his hometown there are still someolder people who knew him, and they are going to see this movie and readabout it and think, "Oh, gosh, did we really know him?' Yes, you did. He wasa good guy."

Ostermueller died in 1957 at the age of 50. Duesterhaus was only 11 yearsold at the time of his death. She was the only child of Faye and FritzOstermueller.

Ostermueller still has family in Quincy, including a nephew. JerryOstermueller said his uncle was nothing like the way he has been portrayedin "42."

"I can¹t see it," Jerry Ostermueller said.

Jerry Ostermueller, 77, said Fritz took an interest in trying to make him abaseball player by building him a pitchers' mound and a strike zone to throwat.

"He told me that once you get to the point where you can put the ballthrough the hole nine times out of 10 without scuffing it, then you¹ll havesomething that I never had, and that was control," Jerry Ostermueller said.

Fritz Ostermueller compiled a 114-115 record while pitching for the BostonRed Sox, St. Louis Browns, Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Heretired in 1948 when he was 40 years old and returned to Quincy. Upon hisreturn home, Ostermueller worked as a color commentator for Quincy Gemsbaseball games. He built and operated the Diamond Motel on North 12th. Thathotel recently was demolished.

After hearing about how her father was portrayed, Sherill Ostermuellereventually went to see the movie last week.

"I enjoyed it unitl the 'true story' went south," she said.

Duesterhaus and Jerry Ostermueller both said they were not contacted byanyone while the movie was in production. Duesterhaus said she would havebeen happy to tell them what kind of man her father was.

"They could have asked me," she said.


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  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

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1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.

(More History)