Monday, April 02, 2007

Honoring Civil Rights History: The Inaugural Civil Rights Game

The inaugural civil rights game of Major League Baseball took place on Saturday, March 31, 2007 in a pre-season match between the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians in Memphis, Tennessee at a minor league park of the St. Louis Cardinals in Memphis, Tennessee. The Memphis location is only six blocks from the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on April 4, 1968.

In preparing for this civil rights game, Jimmy Lee Solomon, Major League Baseball's Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations referred to the breaking of the racial barrier by Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Mr.Solomon stated, "Baseball integrated long before (the public schools) and also before the armed forces."

[Reprinted from]

The struggle for civil rights in America is at the core of this nation's history. The events along that path, the good and the tragic, touched everyone in some way. Tony La Russa, the manager of the Cardinals, was a member of the Oakland A's in 1968 on the day when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.

"I think this carries a lot of significance," La Russa said of the Civil Rights Game. "My suggestion is, however they figure it, they figure it to make an impact on young people because they're the ones that don't know the history. The [National Civil Rights] Museum here is really impressive, very powerful. But a lot of us who have a few years on us, we're aware of the history of it.

"I remember in 1968, it was hard to believe but I made the Oakland A's, it was the first year that they were the Oakland A's after moving from Kansas City. We were in Baltimore and we heard that Martin Luther King had been shot."


Even as Major League Baseball underscores its own history and the civil rights movement with the Civil Rights Game, there is work to be done. The percentage of African-American players has declined from 28 percent in the mid-1970s to about 8 percent now. Baseball would not be baseball if the legacy of Robinson is further eroded.

"With our (baseball) academy at Compton, with the other academies we have going, with our inner-city programs, we hope to reverse that trend," Selig said. "There is such a great heritage, that I hope that all of our efforts will be rewarded. Baseball means so much to us in terms of its history and traditions, that I want the African-American influence increased. In some ways, we've come a long way. When I took over, 2 percent of our staffs in Major League Baseball were minorities. Now, it's 28 percent."

As an educator, I am dedicated to the importance of affirming, appreciating and advancing issues of diversity throughout American society. Also, as a former confidant and counselor to players on the New York Yankees and throughout Major League Baseball, it is my hope that this game is the beginning of additional initiatives that express an appreciation of diversity, such as enhanced community outreach programs and educational programs to instill diversity awareness and character education into the very heart of baseball – to its players, staff, vendors and administrators.


Major League Baseball
Civil Rights Game
Click here to visit site
National Civil Rights Museum Click here to visit site

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home