Alden Gonzalez, Major League Baseball, May 15, 2011
When it came time to vie for hosting the fifth annual Civil Rights Game, Braves president John Schuerholz recalls sharing a very simple, yet very direct message with Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball development, and his group.
“I said to them there’s no better place, more appropriate place, than the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, Atlanta, Ga., to host the Civil Rights Game,” Schuerholz said. “And so I told them, ‘Once we get these games, I’m not so sure you’re going to want to take them anywhere else.'”
Well, it eventually will be taken somewhere else.
But as part of a two-year agreement, Schuerholz can be certain it will be back in Atlanta for 2012.
Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, Grammy Award-winning guitarist Carlos Santana and Hall of Fame player Ernie Banks were a key part of the weekend’s festivities as Beacon Award winners. Hank Aaron, the Braves legend who received tributes during the Beacon Awards Banquet and the pregame ceremonies to the Civil Rights Game, was also a large part of the weekend, as was iconic rapper Ludacris, who performed the postgame concert on Saturday.
Sprinkled in were some notable former players, including Frank Robinson, Earl Williams and Bobby Bonilla. Several key social activists–like Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young–also made their presence felt.
The Civil Rights Game–which celebrates those who fought for civil rights on and off the field–began as exhibition games in Memphis from 2007-08, then moved to Cincinnati as part of the regular-season schedule for the next two years before heading south.