The first Civil Rights game was played in 2007. The first two games were held at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee. The intent of the game was to "embrace baseball's history of African-American players", as well as to generate interest for future black players, after a demographics survey revealed that the percentage of black players in the league has dwindled over the past twelve years to just 8.4 percent. The survey also gave the diversity of players in Major League Baseball an A+ grade: while African-Americans in the sport since 1996 dropped from 17 percent to 8 percent, the percentage of Hispanic players (many of them blacks from the Caribbean) increased during that period from 20 percent to 29 percent, and Asian and other minorities increased from 1 percent to 3 percent. The percentage of non-Hispanic white players went down from 62 percent to 60 percent during that period. In 2009, the game became a regular season game. It has not been held since 2016, for reasons unknown.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig commented on air during the first Civil Rights game that the 8 percent total for African-Americans was "a problem that needed to be looked at." Associated Press news releases related to the game focused on the drop in African-Americans, and quoted former Cleveland pitcher CC Sabathia on the idea that baseball must do more to promote the game in inner cities, saying, "It's not just a problem—it's a crisis."
In conjunction with the Civil Rights Game, Major League Baseball honors three pioneers of civil rights with the Beacon Awards (Beacon of Life Award, Beacon of Change Award and Beacon of Hope Award).
|2007||March 31||Memphis, Tennessee||AutoZone Park||St. Louis Cardinals||5–1||Cleveland Indians||12,815|
|2008||March 29||Memphis, Tennessee||AutoZone Park||New York Mets||3–2||Chicago White Sox||7,717|
|2009||June 20||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park||Cincinnati Reds||8–10||Chicago White Sox||42,234|
|2010||May 15||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park||Cincinnati Reds||4–3||St. Louis Cardinals||41,326|
|2011||May 15||Atlanta, Georgia||Turner Field||Atlanta Braves||3–2||Philadelphia Phillies||42,117|
|2012||August 18||Atlanta, Georgia||Turner Field||Atlanta Braves||2–6||Los Angeles Dodgers||42,219|
|2013||August 24||Chicago, Illinois||U.S. Cellular Field||Chicago White Sox||3–2||Texas Rangers||22,079|
|2014||May 30||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park||Houston Astros||2–1||Baltimore Orioles||38,482|
|2015||April 15||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium||Los Angeles Dodgers||5–2||Seattle Mariners||51,287|
The inaugural game was played on Saturday, March 31, 2007 at 5:30 p.m. and was broadcast nationally on ESPN and ESPNHD. It was announced by ESPN's #1 broadcast team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, with Peter Gammons serving as a field analyst (his role during Sunday Night Baseball telecasts on ESPN). The game featured the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians. Both teams wore uniforms reminiscent of those worn in Negro League games. The Cardinals won 5–1, receiving a solid five-inning start out of their 2006 closer Adam Wainwright, who got the win.
Selig came under heavy fire from Native Americans, who feel that the involvement of the Cleveland Indians was a slap in the face to the Cherokee people who still live in the Memphis area after the infamous Trail of Tears passed through less than 200 years ago. The New York Daily News called the situation a "primer on how to inadvertently stage an ironic insult to a local and large population of Natives" and insinuated that the league has (inadvertently) sabotaged the game by inviting the Indians. The sports blog Deadspin asked the question "If the Indians win, do Native Americans get civil rights?"
On December 3, 2007, league officials announced details for the second annual game. It was played on March 29, 2008. The New York Mets beat the Chicago White Sox 3–2. Martin Luther King III threw out the first pitch. This has been the lowest attended game, to date, primarily because it was held at a minor league park during cool, rainy weather.
On June 20, 2009, the Civil Rights Game was played for the first time as part of the regular season schedule. The game took place at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati between the host Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox defeated the Reds, 10–8. For this game, the teams wore replicas of their 1965 uniforms. The White Sox became the first team to participate in two Civil Rights Games. The game was broadcast on MLB Network except in the home markets of the two teams that played in the game, Cincinnati (FSN Ohio) and Chicago (CSN Chicago).
As of the end of the 2011 season, this game marks the last time the White Sox have actually worn white socks.
Cincinnati again hosted the Civil Rights Game on May 15, 2010. The Reds defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in a dramatic 4–3 game that ended when Reds SS Orlando Cabrera took a relay throw from LF Chris Heisey at the base of the left field wall and gunned down Skip Schumaker at home plate trying to score the tying run from first base on Joe Mather's double. Both teams wore replicas of their 1954 uniforms for this game, the first season both teams fielded their first black players. Again, MLB Network telecast the game except in Cincinnati (Fox Sports Ohio) and St. Louis (Fox Sports Midwest).
During the 2010 season, it was announced that Atlanta, Georgia had been selected to host the 2011 and 2012 Civil Rights Games at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. Prior to the start of the 2011 season, the 2011 Game was announced to be the May 15 series finale between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. Additionally, the festivities have been expanded from two days to four days. TBS carried the game outside the Philadelphia and Atlanta DMAs.
For the Civil Rights Game, the Braves and the Phillies wore their 1974 throwback jerseys to honor Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run in 1974 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. In the previous game of the series, both teams wore Negro League uniforms from their respective cities, the Atlanta Black Crackers for the Braves and the Philadelphia Stars for the Phillies.
The game was a pitching duel against two of the National League's best pitchers, Tim Hudson of the Braves and Roy Halladay of the Phillies. Both pitchers had very good starts, with Hudson going seven and giving up just two runs on a John Mayberry Jr. home run. Halladay worked eight innings, giving up a leadoff eighth-inning home run to Dan Uggla to put the Braves in front. Craig Kimbrel of the Braves closed the game out, earning his tenth save of the season.
Like the 2011 Game, the 2012 Game was held at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. The Atlanta Braves organization announced on February 21 that the game would be the August 19 series finale versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. The three-game weekend series from August 17 to 19 will again be incorporated into the Civil Rights Game Weekend, an event that will honor those on and off the field who have paved the way for equal rights for all Americans.
It was announced on November 19, 2013 that the 2014 Game will be held at Minute Maid Park in Houston on May 30, when the Astros host the Orioles. Houston beat Baltimore 2–1. For the game, the Astros were known as the Houston Eagles (after the only Negro League team in Texas) and Baltimore played as the Baltimore Elite Giants.
The 2015 Game was held on April 15 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles which saw the Dodgers host the Mariners. It was the first Civil Rights Game played on the West Coast. This is, to date, the last Civil Rights game ever played.
Beacon Awards Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Julian Bond
Beacon Awards Dinner Keynote Speaker: Dr. Joseph Lowery
Beacon Awards Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Bill Clinton
Beacon Awards Luncheon keynote speaker: Andrew Young
Beacon Awards Luncheon keynote speaker: Dr. Joseph Lowery
The 2007 Major League Baseball season began on April 1 with a rematch of the 2006 National League Championship Series; the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets played the first game of the season at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, which was won by the Mets, 6–1. The regular season concluded with seven teams entering the postseason who had failed to reach the 2006 playoffs including all National League teams, with only the New York Yankees returning; a dramatic one-game playoff between the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres; and the largest September collapse for a leading team in baseball history, with the Mets squandering a 7-game lead with 17 to play, losing on the final day of the regular season, and the Philadelphia Phillies capturing the National League East for the first time since 1993. The season ended on October 28, with the Boston Red Sox sweeping the World Series over the Rockies, four games to none.
A special exhibition game known as the "Civil Rights Game" was played on March 31 in AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee, between the Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians to celebrate the history of civil rights in the United States. The 2007 season commemorates the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's entry into the game, breaking the color barrier.
For the fourth consecutive season, MLB regular season attendance increased by comparison with the previous year. In 2007, an all-time attendance record of 79,502,524 (32,785 per game) was set.2008 Major League Baseball season
The 2008 Major League Baseball season began on March 25, 2008, in Tokyo, Japan with the 2007 World Series champion Boston Red Sox defeating the Oakland Athletics at the Tokyo Dome 6–5 (in 10 innings) in the first game of a two-game series, and ended on September 30 with the host Chicago White Sox defeating the Minnesota Twins in a one-game playoff to win the AL Central division. The Civil Rights Game, an exhibition, in Memphis, Tennessee, took place March 29 when the New York Mets beat the Chicago White Sox, 3–2.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays shortened their name to Tampa Bay Rays.
The All-Star Game was played on July 15 at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York City, with the AL winning 4 to 3 in 15 innings. The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series 4 games to 1 over the Tampa Bay Rays. This was Philadelphia's second championship, and also the first World Series appearance for the Rays.2009 Major League Baseball season
The 2009 Major League Baseball season began on April 5, 2009, the regular season was extended two days for a one-game playoff between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins to decide the American League Central Division champion. The postseason began the next day with the Division Series. The World Series began on October 28, and ended on November 4, with the New York Yankees defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. This was the second time the season was completed in November. The only other occasion was the 2001 World Series, because of the delaying of the end of that season due to the September 11 attacks as November baseball would be guaranteed when Game 4 was played on Sunday, November 1. Had the 2009 World Series gone the full seven games, Game 7 would've been played on November 5, the latest date ever scheduled for a World Series game. American League champion had home field advantage for the World Series by virtue of winning the All-Star Game on July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, 4–3. In addition, the annual Civil Rights Game became a regular season game, and was played June 20 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, when the host Cincinnati Reds lost to the Chicago White Sox in an interleague game, 10–8. Both teams wore replicas of their 1965 uniforms in the contest.2010 Cincinnati Reds season
The Cincinnati Reds' 2010 season was the 121st season for the franchise in Major League Baseball. The Reds began their season at home against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 5, losing 6 to 11. Cincinnati was coming off a 78-84 (.481) season and fourth place in the NL Central. The Reds were managed by Dusty Baker, who was in his third season with the team. His coaches were Mark Berry (third base), Billy Hatcher (first base), Brook Jacoby (hitting), Juan Lopez (bullpen), Bryan Price (pitching), and Chris Speier (bench). For the second year in a row, Cincinnati hosted the Major League Baseball Civil Rights Game. They played St. Louis Cardinals and won 4 to 3. The majority owner of the Cincinnati Reds was Robert Castellini; the general manager was Walt Jocketty. Their home field was Great American Ball Park.
The Cincinnati Reds clinched the National League Central division and a trip to the MLB postseason on September 28 by a walk-off home run from outfielder Jay Bruce. This was the first time the Reds were in the postseason since the 1995 season. The 2010 season ended when the Reds were swept by the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.2010 Major League Baseball season
The 2010 Major League Baseball season began April 4, with the regular season ending on October 3. The 2010 All-Star Game was played on July 13 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, California. The National League ended a 13-game winless streak with a 3–1 victory. Due to this result, the World Series began October 27 in the city of the National League Champion, the San Francisco Giants, and ended November 1 when the Giants defeated the American League Champion Texas Rangers, four games to one.2012 Major League Baseball season
The 2012 Major League Baseball season began on March 28 with the first of a two-game series between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. On November 22, 2011, a new contract between Major League Baseball and its players union was ratified, and as a result, an expanded playoff format adding two clubs will be adopted no later than 2013 according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The new format was finalized for the 2012 season on March 2, 2012, and will use the 2–3 game schedule format for the Division Series for the 2012 season only. The restriction against divisional rivals playing against each other in the Division Series round that had existed in previous years was eliminated, as the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees squared off in one of the best-of-5 LDS series in the American League. The stateside portion of the regular season started April 4 in Miami with the opening of the new Marlins Park, as the newly renamed Miami Marlins hosted the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. The regular season ended on Wednesday, October 3. The entire master schedule was released on September 14, 2011.
The Major League Baseball postseason was expanded to include a second wild card team in each league beginning in the 2012 season. The season marked the last for the Houston Astros as a member of the National League. Following the sale to new owner Jim Crane, the Astros agreed to move to the American League effective in the 2013 season, and would be assigned to the American League West, joining their in-state rivals, the Texas Rangers.The Major League Baseball All-Star Game's 83rd edition was held on July 10 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, with the National League winning the All-Star Game for the third consecutive year in an 8–0 shutout of the American League. With the win, the National League champion earned home field advantage for the World Series, which began on October 24 and ended on October 28 when the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers. The Civil Rights Game was held on August 18 at Turner Field, as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the host Atlanta Braves, 6–2.2014 Major League Baseball season
The 2014 Major League Baseball season began on March 22 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia, between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The North American part of the season started on March 30 and ended on September 28.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game's 85th edition was held on July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the Minnesota Twins. The American League (AL) beat the National League (NL) 5–3. With the win, the AL champion earned home-field advantage during the World Series.
This year the Houston Astros hosted the Civil Rights Game on May 30 at Minute Maid Park. They played host to the Baltimore Orioles.This was also the final season of Bud Selig as the Commissioner of Baseball. Selig served as the Executive Council Chairman from 1992 to 1998, acting as the commissioner, and then was appointed as the official commissioner in 1998. On August 14, 2014, the franchise owners selected Rob Manfred to become the new Commissioner, starting in 2015.AutoZone Park
AutoZone Park is a Minor League Baseball stadium located in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, and is home to the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and the Memphis 901 FC of the United Soccer League (USL). The Redbirds are the Triple-A affiliate of Major League Baseball's (MLB) St. Louis Cardinals. In 2009, the stadium was named Minor League Ballpark of the Year by Baseball America.Buck O'Neil
"Buck" O'Neil (né John Jordan O'Neil Jr.; 13 November 1911 – 6 October 2006) was a first baseman and manager in the Negro American League, mostly with the Kansas City Monarchs. After his playing days, he worked as a scout, and became the first African American coach in Major League Baseball. In his later years he became a popular and renowned speaker and interview subject, helping to renew widespread interest in the Negro leagues, and played a major role in establishing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.
O'Neil's life was documented in Joe Posnanski's award-winning 2007 book The Soul of Baseball.Gordon Beckham
James Gordon Beckham III (born September 16, 1986) is an American professional baseball infielder for the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners.Interleague play
Interleague play in Major League Baseball refers to regular-season baseball games played between an American League (AL) team and a National League (NL) team. Interleague play was first introduced in the 1997 Major League Baseball season. Prior to that, matchups between AL teams and NL teams occurred only during spring training, the All-Star Game, other exhibition games (such as the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, New York), and the World Series. Unlike modern interleague play, none of these contests, except for the World Series, counted toward official team or league records.Jackie Robinson
Jack Roosevelt Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American professional baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947. When the Dodgers signed Robinson, they heralded the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues since the 1880s. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.Robinson had an exceptional 10-year MLB career. He was the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949—the first black player so honored. Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers' 1955 World Series championship.
In 1997, MLB retired his uniform number 42 across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored. MLB also adopted a new annual tradition, "Jackie Robinson Day", for the first time on April 15, 2004, on which every player on every team wears No. 42.
Robinson's character, his use of nonviolence, and his unquestionable talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation which had then marked many other aspects of American life. He influenced the culture of and contributed significantly to the civil rights movement. Robinson also was the first black television analyst in MLB and the first black vice president of a major American corporation, Chock full o'Nuts. In the 1960s, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem, New York. After his death in 1972, in recognition of his achievements on and off the field, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom.James Loney
James Anthony Loney (born May 7, 1984) is an American former professional baseball first baseman. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Mets, and in Korea Baseball Organization's (KBO) KBO League for the LG Twins.Jimmie Lee Solomon
Jimmie Lee Solomon (born March 11, 1956) is a former Major League Baseball executive who served as the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations in from 2005 to 2010 and Executive Vice President for Baseball Development from 2010 to 2012.Joe Simpson (baseball)
Joe Allen Simpson (born December 31, 1951) is a former Major League Baseball player, and has been a radio and television broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves since 1992.Martin Luther King III
Martin Luther King III (born October 23, 1957) is an American human rights advocate and community activist. As the oldest son and oldest living child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, King served as the 4th President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1997 to 2004.Norm Hitzges
Norman Richard "Norm" Hitzges (born July 5, 1944) is an author and sports talk radio host at KTCK (1310 AM / 96.7 FM, "SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket") in Dallas, and a Texas Radio Hall of Fame member. Hitzges pioneered radio sports talk in the morning at KLIF radio at a time when sports talk was mainly on in the evening. Hitzges moved to (former rival) KTCK in early 2000 after 15 years at sister station KLIF when the latter removed sports talk programming from its lineup. Hitzges also serves as the television play-by-play voice of the Dallas Sidekicks.He has also provided major league baseball commentary for ESPN. Hitzges is known for his enthusiasm and knowledge of sports trivia and has been compared to Dick Vitale for his energy and love of sports. Hitzges has been honored by the Dallas All Sports Association and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.Hitzges also hosts "Norm-A-Thon", a yearly 18-hour marathon broadcast to raise money for the Austin Street Center, a Dallas area homeless shelter. Hitzges has also been a long-time supporter of Texans! Can Academy, an organization that provides at-risk youths with education and training.
Weekly segments on his show include “The Birdhouse,” “Shuttle Run,” “The Meatheads of the Week,” and “The Weekend-around.”
Since 2010, Hitzges and his wife have lived in the Dallas suburb of Little Elm, Texas.Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is a youth baseball program operated by Major League Baseball. This youth initiative is designed to provide young people from underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball. The program was created by John Young in 1989 in Los Angeles, and now serves more than 200 communities.Willie Mays
Willie Howard Mays, Jr. (born May 6, 1931), nicknamed "The Say Hey Kid", is an American former Major League Baseball (MLB) center fielder who spent almost all of his 22-season career playing for the New York/San Francisco Giants, before finishing with the New York Mets. He is regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.
Mays won two National League (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, he ended his career with 660 home runs—third at the time of his retirement and currently fifth all-time—and won a record-tying 12 Gold Glove awards beginning in 1957, when the award was introduced.Mays shares the record of most All-Star Games played with 24, with Hank Aaron and Stan Musial. In appreciation of his All-Star record, Ted Williams said "They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays."Mays' career statistics and his longevity in the pre-performance-enhancing drugs era have drawn speculation that he may be the finest five-tool player ever, and many surveys and expert analyses, which have examined Mays' relative performance, have led to a growing opinion that Mays was possibly the greatest all-around offensive baseball player of all time. In 1999, Mays placed second on The Sporting News's "List of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players", making him the highest-ranking living player. Later that year, he was also elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Mays is one of five National League players to have had eight consecutive 100-RBI seasons, along with Mel Ott, Sammy Sosa, Chipper Jones, and Albert Pujols. Mays hit over 50 home runs in 1955 and 1965, representing the longest time span between 50-plus home run seasons for any player in Major League Baseball history. His final Major League Baseball appearance came on October 16 during Game 3 of the 1973 World Series.
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