Civil Rights Game

Civil Rights Game


The Civil Rights Game is an annual Major League Baseball game (starting in 2007) that honors the history of civil rights in the United States and marked the unofficial end to the league's Spring Training. Starting in 2009, the game became a regular season game.

The first two games were held at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee. The intent of the game was to "embrace baseball's history of African-American players," as well as to generate interest for future black players, after a demographics survey revealed that the percentage of black players in the league has dwindled over the past twelve years to just 8.4 percent.[1] The survey also gave the diversity of players in Major League Baseball an A+ grade: while African-Americans in the sport since 1996 dropped from 17 percent to 8 percent, the percentage of Hispanic players increased during that period from 20 percent to 29 percent, and Asian and other minorities increased from 1 percent to 3 percent. The percentage of Caucasian players actually went down from 62 percent to 60 percent during that period. [2]

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig commented on air during the first Civil Rights game that the 8 percent total for African-Americans was "a problem that needed to be looked at." Associated Press news releases related to the game focused on the drop in African-Americans, and quoted former Cleveland pitcher CC Sabathia on the idea that baseball must do more to promote the game in inner cities, saying, "It's not just a problem — it's a crisis."[1]

In conjunction with the Civil Rights Game, Major League Baseball honors three pioneers of civil rights with the Beacon Awards (Beacon of Life Award, Beacon of Change Award and Beacon of Hope Award).


Year Date Host City Stadium Team Score Team Attendance
2007 March 31 Memphis, Tennessee AutoZone Park St. Louis Cardinals 5–1 Cleveland Indians 12,815
2008 March 29 Memphis, Tennessee AutoZone Park New York Mets 3–2 Chicago White Sox 7,717
2009 June 20 Cincinnati, Ohio Great American Ball Park Cincinnati Reds 8–10 Chicago White Sox 42,234
2010 May 15 Cincinnati, Ohio Great American Ball Park Cincinnati Reds 4–3 St. Louis Cardinals 41,326
2011 May 15 Atlanta, Georgia Turner Field Atlanta Braves 3–2 Philadelphia Phillies 42,117

Game summaries

Inaugural Game

The inaugural game was played on Saturday, March 31, 2007 at 5:30 PM and was broadcast nationally on ESPN and ESPNHD. It was announced by ESPN's #1 broadcast team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, with Peter Gammons serving as a field analyst (his role during Sunday Night Baseball telecasts on ESPN). The game featured the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians. Both teams wore uniforms reminiscent of those worn in Negro League games, but sorely lacking in appearance compared to the old Negro League uniforms. The Cardinals won 5–1, receiving a solid five-inning start out of their 2006 closer Adam Wainwright, who got the win.


Selig came under heavy fire from Native Americans, who feel that the involvement of the Cleveland Indians was a slap in the face to the Cherokee people who still live in the Memphis area after the infamous Trail of Tears passed through less than 200 years ago. The New York Daily News called the situation a "primer on how to inadvertently stage an ironic insult to a local and large population of Natives" and insinuated that the league has (inadvertently) sabotaged the game by inviting the Indians.[3] The sports blog Deadspin asked the question "If the Indians win, do Native Americans get civil rights?"[4]

2008 Game

On December 3, 2007, league officials announced details for the second annual game. It was played on March 29, 2008. The New York Mets beat the Chicago White Sox 3–2. Martin Luther King III threw out the first pitch.

2009 Game

On June 20, 2009, the Civil Rights Game was played for the first time as part of the regular season schedule. The game took place at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio between the host Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox defeated the Reds, 10–8. For this game, the teams wore replicas of their 1965 uniforms. The White Sox became the first team to participate in two Civil Rights Games. The game was broadcast on MLB Network except in the home markets of the two teams that played in the game, Cincinnati (FSN Ohio) and Chicago (CSN Chicago).[5]

2010 Game

Cincinnati again hosted the Civil Rights Game on May 15th, 2010. The Reds defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in a dramatic 4-3 game that ended when Reds SS Orlando Cabrera took a relay throw from LF Chris Heisey at the base of the left field wall and gunned down Skip Schumaker at home plate trying to score the tying run from first base on Joe Mather's double.[6] Both teams wore replicas of their 1954 uniforms for this game, the first season both teams fielded their first black players. Again, MLB Network telecast the game except in Cincinnati (Fox Sports Ohio) and St. Louis (Fox Sports Midwest).

2011 Game

During the 2010 season, it was announced that Atlanta, Georgia had been selected to host the 2011 and 2012 Civil Rights Games at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. [7] Prior to the start of the 2011 season, the 2011 Game was announced to be the May 15th series finale between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. Additionally, the festivities have been expanded from two days to four days. [8] TBS carried the game outside the Philadelphia and Atlanta DMAs.

For the Civil Rights Game, the Braves and the Phillies wore their 1974 throwback jerseys to honor Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run in 1974 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. In the previous game of the series, both teams wore Negro League uniforms from their respective cities, the Atlanta Black Crackers for the Braves and the Philadelphia Stars for the Phillies.[9]

The game was a pitching duel against two of the National League's best pitchers, Tim Hudson of the Braves and Roy Halladay of the Phillies. Both pitchers had very good starts, with Hudson going seven and giving up just two runs on a John Mayberry Jr. home run. Halladay worked eight innings, giving up a leadoff eighth inning home run to Dan Uggla to put the Braves in front. Craig Kimbrel of the Braves closed the game out, earning his tenth save of the season.

Future Civil Rights Games

Like the 2011 Game, the 2012 Game will be held at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. More details of the game will be released at a later date.

Beacon Awards

2007 MLB Beacon Award Winners

See footnote[10][11]

Beacon Awards Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Julian Bond

2008 MLB Beacon Award Winners

See footnote[12]

Beacon Awards Dinner Keynote Speaker: Dr. Joseph Lowery

2009 MLB Beacon Award Winners

See footnote[13]

Beacon Awards Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Bill Clinton

2010 MLB Beacon Award Winners

See footnote[14]

Beacon Awards Luncheon keynote speaker: Andrew Young

2011 MLB Beacon Award Winners

See footnote[15]

Beacon Awards Luncheon keynote speaker: Dr. Joseph Lowery

See also


  1. ^ a b The San Francisco Chronicle. [dead link]
  2. ^ Major League Baseball
  3. ^ Bondy, Filip (March 8, 2007). "Selig's uncivil wrong". Daily News (New York). 
  4. ^ Mlb: If The Indians Win, Do Native Americans Get Civil Rights?
  5. ^ Baseball says Civil Rights Game will move to Cincinnati for 2009
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Atlanta Braves to host 2011 and 2012 Civil Rights Game Weekends". MLB Advanced Media, L.P. ( June 30, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  8. ^ "Civil Rights Game to feature Braves, Phillies". 13 January 2011. 
  9. ^ "Phillies Will Wear Negro Leagues Jerseys on Saturday, 1974 Throwbacks on Sunday". 13 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Bloom, Barry M. (March 31, 2007). "Beacons awarded at poignant luncheon: Three winners honored on day of Civil Rights Game". MLB Advanced Media, L.P. ( Retrieved 2010-06-03. 
  11. ^ Hill, Justice B. (March 27, 2007). "O'Neil to receive Beacon Award: Baseball ambassador recognized for his dedication". 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Schlegel, John (May 15, 2010). "Beacon Awards honor legendary trio: Mays, King and Belafonte recognized for their contributions". MLB Advanced Media, L.P. ( Retrieved 2010-06-03. 
  15. ^ Gonzalez, Alden (March 23, 2011). "Beacon Awards go to Banks, Freeman, Santana". MLB Advanced Media, L.P. ( Retrieved 2011-04-15. 

External links

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