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Civil Rights Game sheds light on pivotal era

On Saturday, baseball will be secondary to honoring those who fought for equality

CHICAGO -- Saturday night's contest between the Rangers and White Sox only has real playoff ramifications for the visiting team from Texas.

On the other side of the field, it will serve as another important step in the two-month evaluation process which will inform the South Siders' reshaping in 2014.

But that description focuses solely on baseball.

With Chicago and the White Sox playing host to Major League Baseball's Civil Rights Game, the on-field action is somewhat secondary this weekend.

"Yeah, the game is a game," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf of the importance of the Civil Rights Game activities surrounding the actual contest. "It's the activities."

This seventh Civil Rights Game begins with a roundtable discussion on Friday, entitled "Baseball & The Civil Rights Movement." It will take place at the Chicago Cultural Center from 12:30-2 p.m. CT and is free of charge.

White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams and sports agent Larry Reynolds are two of the members of the panel, which will be moderated by MLB Network's Harold Reynolds. Thomas Tull, the CEO of Legendary Pictures and the executive producer of this year's film about Jackie Robinson, "42"; Shari Runner, the senior vice president for strategy of the Chicago Urban League; and Major League Baseball's Wendy Lewis complete the five-person panel. Guests will be seated on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the discussion will be streamed on on Saturday.

MLB's Beacon Awards will follow on Saturday, running from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT at the Downtown Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue. Former White Sox star Bo Jackson will be honored and then recognized on the field that night. Eighteen-time Grammy Award-winner Aretha Franklin, who was scheduled to be honored as well, will not be able to attend the Beacon Awards Luncheon due to health reasons.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Chicago Urban League and La Rabida Children's Hospital, with every member of the current White Sox roster scheduled to attend. Additional luncheon guests include Commissioner Bud Selig, Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Ferguson Jenkins, White Sox legends Minnie Minoso and Frank Thomas, Detroit legend Willie Horton and Sharon Robinson. ESPN's Michael Wilbon will co-host, and Commissioner Selig is scheduled to address the guests.

Information for the Civil Rights Game and the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon can be found at The Civil Rights Game events were developed to pay tribute to all of those who fought on and off the field for equal rights for all Americans. The 2013 Civil Rights Game will air nationally on MLB Network, locally on Comcast Sportsnet in Chicago and on FOX Sports Southwest in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.

All-Star Yu Darvish gets the start for Texas on Saturday night, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT, and Hector Santiago takes the mound for the White Sox. A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Rios, Neal Cotts and Jason Frasor played for the White Sox, and Matt Garza (Sunday's starter), Geovany Soto and Jeff Baker are former Cubs.

The White Sox will become the only team to have participated in three Civil Rights Games, having volunteered to host the 2013 event as soon as the opportunity arose.

"We've got a lot of people behind the scenes that put [much] more work than the decision that went into it to volunteer to have it," Williams said. "So, everybody on the ground has done a heck of a lot. I get to show up, and you know, celebrate everyone."

"To me, the importance of the [Civil Rights Game] is to get more kids from the black community playing baseball," Reinsdorf said. "We spend a lot of time celebrating the past in this country, but we have to look forward. We could do a lot more. Baseball fields are expensive, not just to build, but to maintain. There are so many priorities, so many other priorities, that it's impossible to do enough, so we all have to pitch in and do as much as we can on an individual basis."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.

Chicago White Sox