When Jackie Robinson played an exhibition game at Luther Williams Field in 1939 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, a young Carl Wilson was in the stands.
"At that time, I don't think I had ever seen anyone quite as quick on the base path," Wilson said. "He was always a threat to run."
Wilson's fond memories of the day he saw Robinson in action fueled his passion for baseball and led him to write a book, "Macon Plays at Home Tonight."
In that book, Wilson talks about the history of baseball in Macon and details the day he saw Robinson play.
"Robinson got three hits, one of them a blooper. Even though he didn't steal a base, he thrilled the crowd when he got on third base in the fourth inning," Wilson recalled. "He had first dashed about three-quarters of the way to the plate, then returned to third. It's safe to say that no fan in the park that day had ever seen anything quite like that."
Just 15 years old when he watched the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Macon Peaches 11-2 that day, Wilson said, "It was the first time that I had ever seen a major league baseball team. I got a lot of enjoyment out of it."
He says more than 6,000 showed up for that game.
"Originally, the story was that the Dodgers were going to Atlanta to play the Atlanta Crackers, Atlanta's minor league team, two exhibition games. Then, as kind of an afterthought, they decided to stop here in Macon and play here in Macon, before they went to Atlanta."
Jackie Robinson's talent for baseball was only equaled by his trailblazing courage, both of which are portrayed in the movie "42."
The movie also spotlights baseball's color barrier and the racial challenges of the period, taking viewers inside the segregated stands where white and black fans were kept separated.
That's something else about Robinson's historic day in Macon that Wilson remembers so clearly.
"The black spectators sat in some seats down the foul line, left field foul line, all the way down to the fence," he says. "Then all around the park, all around park inside the outfield fence, there was a wire fence between the old outfield fence, and black spectators stood behind that fence all around the outfield. They filled up that area."
America's love of baseball is also part of what makes Jackie Robinson's story so special. Baseball is a good medium, Wilson says, for bringing people together, capable of transcending barriers of all kinds.
Wilson says he's happy one of baseball's pioneers is being honored on the big screen, but he's proud he witnessed part of the legend's real-life journey from a seat in the stands on the home field in Macon.
"He was one of the most exciting players that I've ever seen. He was very charismatic and very exciting."