I've always enjoyed this film ever since I was a pre teen. But as i've viewed the film in subsequent years i've come to regard it as more than just a very entertaining film.
The first point that i'd like to make is that it would be very easy to look at this film as a glossed over historical account of Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. The film is not that although three of the main characters are certainly based upon those great men. For a more historical recount, albeit with some dramatic license, I would recommend HBO's fine Soul of the Game.
I think it's difficult for many in my generation (under 40) to really appreciate the struggles and agony that most black americans endured just a short time ago in our history. This film however does a fabulous job of weaving the reality of barnstorming with the joy, athleticism and sorrow that was Negro League Baseball in addition to the pervasive racism that flourished throughout america at that time. For that alone it shouldn't be missed.
All that notwithstanding it's a fabulous entertainment. Richard Pryor is as always hiliarious. The script is very well written. At times emphasizing comedy, drama, triumph, tragedy and most importantly sufficiently representing the atmosphere and culture of much of black america at that time. But it's the performances of Billy Dee and James Earl that really raise the film from just fine storytelling to the level of social commentary and criticsm.
You'll laugh, strut, rage, and ultimately cry at this beautiful film.