12/04/06 7:22 PM ET
First Civil Rights Game set for March 31
Cardinals to play Indians in Memphis as part of celebration
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
"The National Civil Rights Museum is honored to join Major League Baseball in paying tribute to the struggles, success and contributions that people of color have made to the sport," said Beverly Robertson, president of the Museum. "We hope this game will focus the attention of the nation again on this vital history, and rekindle a spirit of enthusiasm among youth to become more actively involved in making a difference in their communities and America's national pastime."About six blocks from the museum in downtown Memphis, AutoZone Park is the home of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, the top Minor League affiliate of the Cardinals, who won two World Series titles in the 1960s laden with talented African-Americans such as Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Bill White, who later became the first African-American president of the National League. "The Cardinals are honored to be a part of the inaugural Civil Rights Game," said Mark Lamping, the club's president. "We feel a strong connection to the city of Memphis through our Triple-A affiliate, and are proud that the Redbirds' home, AutoZone Park, will host this day-long celebration of a pivotal time in our nation's history and the role that baseball played in the civil rights Movement." The Indians were the first American League team to integrate when they signed Larry Doby, shortly after Jackie Robinson's debut in 1947. In addition, Frank Robinson became the first African-American manager in baseball history in 1975 when he took the helm of the Indians. "This represents a set of values and beliefs that starts with our ownership and traverses every area of our organization," said Mark Shapiro, the Indians general manager. "The history of civil rights needs to be honored. The pursuit of civil rights, for compassion and for tolerance, needs to be fought for not only in our game, but also in our country and in our own organization. It's that belief system and that history that is the root of our pride and why we are participating in this game." As part of the event, MLB will be making donations to several charities, including the National Civil Rights Museum, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Negro Leagues Museum and other local Memphis charities. Filmmaker Spike Lee has also been commissioned to produce a five-minute documentary to commemorate the efforts of legendary civil rights pioneers as well as MLB's role in supporting the rights of African-Americans. The film will debut during the Civil Rights Game festivities. "The civil rights era and its pioneers are one of great importance and should not be forgotten," Lee said. "I am pleased to join Major League Baseball in celebrating and reflecting on the tremendous achievements that African-American players made as they changed the game of baseball and contributed to one of the most significant times of social change in our country." Tickets for the game will go on sale Dec. 5, and will be available at Indians.com, stlcardinals.com and memphisredbirds.com.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.