03/29/08 10:20 PM ET
Mets edge Sox in Civil Rights Game
Contest in Memphis caps historic and uplifting weekend
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
"Everything is great," said Guillen, sitting half-dressed behind a desk inside AutoZone Park. "Everything is perfect."
Well, not necessarily "everything." Guillen would have preferred for his White Sox to come out on the front end of Saturday's 3-2 game with the Mets.
Instead, his White Sox had to settle for an enjoyable experience, which was easy to come by, with 7,717 fans looking on at the second annual Civil Rights Game, sponsored by AutoZone.
Along with the Mets, the Sox were making history, as Major League Baseball is hoping to build the Civil Rights Game into an annual preseason institution.
The game itself capped a weekend of events that celebrated the role baseball has played in the historical struggle for equal rights in America. From a roundtable discussion to the Beacon Awards banquet, the weekend served as a salute to a partnership that has stretched through most of the 20th century.
"Baseball and civil rights have always been tied together," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "It started back with Jackie Robinson, and I hope there is a future for this game for years to come."
In a game as tight as this one, the future might be assured. For the fans who came to root for the either the White Sox or the Mets saw an exhibition befitting of a regular-season game.
On a rain-chilled afternoon, both starting pitchers looked sharp early. Neither Mets right-hander John Maine nor White Sox right-hander Jose Contreras allowed a run until the bottom of the fourth inning.
The first runs came off Contreras, who served up a two-run homer to Carlos Beltran. But with Maine in the Mets clubhouse, the Sox evened the score in the seventh, when Pablo Ozuna singled with the bases loaded to tie the game.
The tie didn't last long, however, as White Sox offseason pickup Scott Linebrink allowed two singles and an RBI groundout in the bottom of the seventh.
The run put the Mets ahead for good.
While the Mets enjoyed the 3-2 victory, winning the game was less important than just being here to soak up U.S. history.
The game capped a full weekend of events that the city of Memphis has planned as a jumping-off point for the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed on April 4, 1968.
"To me, it's an honor to be involved in this game," White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye said. "I've got a chance to play this game because of other people like Dr. King and Rosa Parks, and it's just a great experience."
Baseball officials agree.
Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, expressed his optimism about the future of the Civil Rights Game, though he stopped short of promising the game would remain a Memphis fixture.
"I think Memphis has a particular appeal," he said. "But there are other cities that have the same appeal, and I've been very clear that cities like Atlanta, cities like Dallas and Arlington, cities like Kansas City all have particular appeal to us, too.
"But Memphis right now is where we are, and, of course, we'd like to stay here in Memphis. We'll see."
Guillen hopes the game will return to Memphis as well. He called Memphis and its ballpark an excellent venue for the event, and said the ballpark would make some Major League cities envious.
"Lucky guys playing Triple-A here," he said. "They play Triple-A here, they might not wanna come to the big leagues."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.