LOS ANGELES — Dodger Stadium was home to Major League Baseball’s ninth annual Civil Rights Game April 15, which coincided with Jackie Robinson Day for the first time.
Robinson’s widow, Rachel, participated in the first pitch ceremony before the Los Angeles Dodgers-Seattle Mariners game along with Robinson’s former teammates Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and former Brooklyn Dodger pitching star Don Newcombe. Joni Campanella, the daughter of the late Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, and scholars from the Jackie Robinson Foundation also were featured in the ceremony.
Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, Basketball Hall of Fame member and Dodger part-owner Magic Johnson, and basseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson also were recognized during pre-game ceremonies.
Huerta and Johnson received the 2015 MLB Beacon Awards, which recognize individuals whose lives and actions have been emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement. Frank Robinson received a special award in recognition of the 40th anniversary of his becoming Major League Baseball’s first black manager.
In connection with the Civil Rights Game, a roundtable discussion was held earlier in the day at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on the role baseball played in the civil rights movement.
The panelists included Johnson; Huerta; Frank Robinson; Sharon Robinson, Major League Baseball’s educational programming consultant and the daughter of Jackie Robinson; Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s ambassador for inclusion; and Brian Woodward, a doctoral student in the Urban Schooling division of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. The discussion was moderated by Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree.
Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Game was initially held as an exhibition in Memphis, Tennessee, the site of the National Civil Rights Museum, in 2007 and 2008, as a way for Major League Baseball to honor the civil rights movement and baseball’s role in it “and to pay tribute to individuals outside of baseball who embodied its spirit through their actions,” Steven Arocho, Major League Baseball’s director of business communications, told City News Service.
It was switched to a regular-season game in 2009 “because Major League Baseball recognized that clubs, and the cities that house them, have their own civil rights stories to tell and the most appropriate way to do so was to host the event at their ballparks” during the regular season, Arocho added.