CHICAGO (AP) — When Major League Baseball sought a host for its 2013 Civil Rights Game, the Chicago White Sox were quick to volunteer.
And as MLB executives such as Frank Robinson, a Hall of Famer and baseball’s first black manger, considered a commitment the more sense Chicago made.
“Each time we thought about a city it always came back to Chicago,” said Robinson, MLB’s executive director of baseball development. “The enthusiasm and the rich history of civil rights movement here and the people involved in the civil rights movement and the diversity in this city … in the end we said we can’t do any better than presenting it to the White Sox.”
On Tuesday, Robinson said the White Sox will host the seventh edition of the game on Aug. 24 against the Texas Rangers, capping a host of other activities saluting efforts to secure equal rights for Americans.
The game debuted with spring training exhibitions in Memphis, Tenn., in 2007 and 2008 followed by regular-season games in Cincinnati (2009-10) and Atlanta (2011-12). Moving the game to Chicago, the largest city so far to host, is expected to have a beneficial impact.
“I think it’s going to a tremendous boost to the Civil Rights Game and tell people what we are looking for and what we are trying to do,” Robinson said. “And what we’re trying to do is keep the civil rights movement alive and in people’s minds.”
The decision grew out of discussions last June while executives were in town for an MLB diversity meeting. While at a White Sox game, Robinson and MLB officials talked with Ken Williams, the White Sox executive vice president, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
No hard sell was necessary.
“We’ll take it,” Williams simply told Robinson.
Robinson then approached Reinsdorf.
“I walked over to Jerry’s suite and asked him if he’d be interested,” Robinson said. “Jerry said: `You’re kidding? Yes, yes we’ll take it’.”
Williams and Reinsdorf also took part in Tuesday’s announcement.
“We were scheduled to play one of the games in Memphis and it got rained out,” Reinsdorf said. “So we took the entire team to the Martin Luther King Museum. What suddenly hit me was that our oldest player at the time — Jim Thome — actually was born after King had been killed (in 1968 in Memphis).
“This tragic event is something that preceded the lifetime of (many) people in this country,” he added. “We cannot allow all of the struggles to be forgotten.”
Charles Ogletree, a Harvard Law School professor and expert on race and justice, will moderate a discussion on baseball and the civil rights movement. Previous participants have included King’s son, Martin Luther King III, and Sharon Robinson, daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
The site of next year’s game has not been announced but it will be held in a different city.
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