View Full Version : Cincinnati gears up for Civil Rights festivites

06-12-2009, 11:50 AM
Cincinnati gears up for Civil Rights festivites
Game will accompany several events celebrating racial equality
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

06/12/09 9:30 AM ET

The Civil Rights Game, to be held June 20 between the Reds and White Sox at Great American Ball Park, will showcase Cincinnati and the efforts Major League Baseball has made to create a level playing field for players and fans from all races and backgrounds.

For the first time in its three editions, the Civil Rights Game is being held at a big league ballpark during the regular season. It was held in Memphis as a preseason exhibition the previous two years. When the league decided to move the game, the Reds and Cincinnati made an enthusiastic lobbying effort -- not just for 2009, but also 2010.

"We pursued the Civil Rights Game opportunity because we wanted to be part of bringing this jewel event to the Major League level," Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini said.

This will be the second time the White Sox have participated in the Civil Right Game. Chicago played the Mets last year in Memphis and it proved to be a special time.

"There were a lot of memories," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said this week. "Walking through the Lorraine Hotel, for sure, and experiencing that whole thing, and then watching my players of all cultures really kind of absorbing it, it was an educational experience, it was an emotional experience, one that I certainly won't ever forget. I'll end up taking my children down there, my grandchildren down there at some point. Cincinnati, I'm not as familiar with, so that'll be educational for me as well."

The Reds, which want to prove that their city can host an All-Star Game, have pulled out all the stops to guarantee a memorable weekend.

"It's about showcasing what the city of Cincinnati can do to host any event," said Karen Forgus, the club's senior vice president of business operations. "Phil and [owner] Bob [Castellini] feel strongly that because Cincinnati has such a great pedigree in baseball, we should be one of the first places they think of."

The event is billed as the Civil Rights Game, but there is much more than a game happening next weekend. There will be two days worth of events -- both inside and outside of Great American Ball Park.

The Baseball and Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion will be held Friday afternoon at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Moderated by renowned Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, the discussion will feature panelists like Reds great and Hall of Famer Tony Perez, basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds.

Admission to the roundtable is free and it will also be streamed live on MLB.com from 4-5:30 p.m. ET. The Freedom Center, which tells the story of slaves and their quest for freedom, is just down the street from Great American Ball Park.

Saturday afternoon will be about saluting iconic people and personalities during the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards Luncheon at the Duke Energy Center in downtown Cincinnati.

The Beacon Awards recognize individuals "whose lives are emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement." The MLB Beacon of Life Award will be presented by Commissioner Bud Selig to Hank Aaron. Boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard will give the MLB Beacon of Change Award to the legendary Muhammad Ali. Comedian and television star Bill Cosby will receive the MLB Beacon of Hope Award from Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson.

The luncheon, which is sold out, will be hosted by CNN anchor and reporter Soledad O'Brien and former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

Down the street at Fountain Square, a couple of thousand kids will be on hand for the Civil Rights Game Youth Summit and to participate in a new MLB youth initiative called Wanna Play?

From 2-7 p.m., Fifth Street by the Square will be closed to traffic as kids test their skills in batting cages, on pitching mounds and running from home to first base. There will be prizes available, including 300 gloves and game tickets. The event is free. Reds players Brandon Phillips and Jerry Hairston Jr., former Red Eric Davis and Reynolds will hold a clinic and take part in the youth summit.

Wanna Play? is a marketing effort to create and strengthen the connection between children from the African-American community and Major League Baseball.

"We were picked to be the host city because of our passion for the event," Castellini said. "The Freedom's Center has relevance to the topic and our city has a venue layout with the hotels being walking distance to the Duke Energy Convention Center, Great American Ball Park, Fountain Square and the Freedom Center."

At 7:10 p.m. ET, the Reds and White Sox will play -- with both clubs wearing special throwback uniforms. Before the game, there will be ceremonies featuring Grammy Award-winning gospel singer BeBe Winans. All three Beacon Award winners -- Ali, Cosby and Aaron -- will also be recognized on the field.

Despite the pageantry of the night and the weekend, Saturday's game will count like any other in the regular season. But it will definitely one of the more meaningful games of the season -- no matter what the box score says.


06-12-2009, 11:59 AM
I'll be there. Sounds like a great event!

06-12-2009, 12:03 PM
I'll be there. Sounds like a great event!

Me too. I think I'm going to the game on Sunday too. I'm looking forward to it. I'm pumped about the Frank Robinson 1964 mesh jersey they are giving away.

06-12-2009, 12:22 PM
I'll be out of town next weekend and I'm bummed that I'll miss this great weekend. It sounds like it's going to be really special! :)