This Saturday, at AutoZone Park in Memphis TN (home of the AAA Redbirds), the Inaugural Civil Rights Game will be played between the St Louis Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians. This exhibition game will be an annual event, much like the NFL's Hall of Fame Game. However, the game this Saturday hold's much more significance. It is designed to commemorate the civil rights movement, and it is only appropriate that the game is initiated this year, the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. And the site, of course, holds merit a well, as it was the city where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
Amidst all the turmoil in Major League Baseball over the past 15 years, namely payroll issues and strikes, the steroid scandal, and the closing of old stadiums at will, I am proud that my sport is setting up this event. It is a chance to show both how far the sport and America has come, but also how far we still need to go, and most importantly it is a chance to honor all the great African-American athletes of the past and present. Major League Baseball was the first professional sport to work with the Civil Rights Movement, and these socially significant and catalytic times are certainly worth honoring.
Filmmaker Spike Lee has been commissioned to do a short documentary on African-Americans in Baseball, which will be shown during the game festivities and subsequently at the Civil Rights Museum, also in Memphis. Several donations will also be made to the NAACP and the aforementioned Civil Rights Museusm on behalf of MLB. First pitch is at 530 ET. I will certainly be watching, and I hope that this event is a step in the right direction and a tradition for years to come.
(Hey Bud -- let's work on getting rid of the Designated Hitter now.)