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As baseball celebrates past, future in focus

ATL View Full Game Coverage ANTA -- The Civil Rights Game was played Saturday night in Atlanta, and it just so happened to involve two clubs who, despite hailing from distinctly different divisions, can very clearly label each other as rivals in the standings.

That's part of the allure of the Wild Cards, and there is increased with the expanded postseason format introduced this year. The format has become a point of pride for Commissioner Bud Selig, who took in this Braves-Dodgers tilt knowing he was watching two of many teams who are part of what is shaping up to be a wonderfully complicated postseason outlook.

"We wanted to make winning the division very important," Selig told reporters during the Civil Rights Game. "That was the one weakness before, and I will admit that. This couldn't be working out any better. You've got five or six teams in both leagues within a game and a half [of a playoff spot]. It's terrific. We're going to have a great finish. We're having a great attendance year, phenomenal attendance year, but the finish should be terrific."

Selig is also proud of the Civil Rights Game itself, which has finished up a two-year engagement in Atlanta and could head elsewhere in 2013.

The Commissioner said there is no shortage of clubs lining up to play host, though a decision has not yet been made.

"Everybody wants it," Selig said. "When we started out, we used to have to go to cities and clubs and say, 'Why don't you take this?'"

The game highlights baseball's role as a foreshadower to the Civil Rights Movement, beginning with Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color barrier.

"I've often said that Jackie Robinson's coming to the big leagues, April 15, 1947, was the most important and powerful moment in baseball history," Selig said. "And there's no doubt in my mind that's true. I think of all the things that have happened since then, so baseball has this really remarkable history. Because, after all, Branch Rickey brought him to the big leagues 3 1/2 years before Harry Truman desegregated the United States Army, seven years before Brown vs. Board of Education and 18 years before the Civil Rights Movement. So what a powerful moment it was and it did help to change America."

That change was celebrated once again Saturday. And the fact that the celebration coincided with a game that helps highlight the changed playoff picture was an added bonus.