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December 3, 2007
BILLY SAMPLE: I'm Billy Sample, and we're here to announce the 2008 Major League Baseball Civil Rights Game's participants. You may be able to figure out from looking at the dais the two teams, and we'll get to that in a moment.
The game will be played on March 29 and there will be a panel discussion on March 28, as well as giving out the Beacon Award. And last year the game was between the Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians, a couple of teams with a lot of progressive civil rights backgrounds. The Cardinals in the early 60s, with people like Bob Gibson, Bill White, Curt Flood, insisted on integrating Spring Training facilities. And the Cardinals were known as one of the most close-knit teams of the 1960s; and the turbulent times of the 1960s, as well as one of the best teams, winning a world championship in 1964 and 1967.
And the Indians behind owner Bill Veck integrated the American League with Larry Doby in 1947, give or take about three months after Jack Roosevelt Robinson did it and became the first person of color to play in the 20th century on April 15th, 1947.
We have a very impressive dais. I know that's a lot to follow, but we have a very impressive dais as you can see. In the middle of the dais is Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. To his right, Ken Williams, general manager and senior VP of the Chicago White Sox. To Ken's right, Ozzie Guillén, a three-time All-Star player, Gold Glove winner, as well, and he has a World Series win as a manager in 2005. To Jimmie Lee's left, Omar Minaya, the general manager and senior vice president of the New York Mets, and to his left, his manager, Willie Randolph, who has two World Series rings and was a six-time All-Star as a player.
I want to recognize one person in the audience among a number of dignitaries, and that is Dave Chase. He is the president and general manager of the Memphis Redbirds, and he's the driving force of the host city in Memphis, as he was last year.
And Dave and his foundation also raise over $600,000. They are a not-for-profit organization. It is amazing with all of the money that you make in baseball nowadays that you can have a non-profit organization, but they do. They donate a lot of their money to charity. Among those, the RBI Program, Reviving Baseball in the Inner City, as well as their Stripes Program, which gives money to boys' and girls' softball and baseball, middle school and junior high school levels. That's really a lot more altruistic than some of us who claim to be mercenaries are.
A number of other people in the audience I want to get to. One special person a little bit later on as we go through the dais, but first we're going to start up here with Jimmie Lee Solomon, the executive VP. And Jimmie Lee, I'd like to say when people have those big credentials; he was a football player and he ran track at Dartmouth College, and got his law degree from Harvard. Every once in a while, I try to walk on an Ivy League campus, but that's as close as I can get.
And not only that, Jimmie has been the driving force not only behind the Civil Rights Game from the Commissioner's office, but as well as the Compton Baseball Academy, along with Darryl Miller who is out in the audience, as well. And Jimmie Lee also is the driving force behind the Futures Game, the All-Star Futures Game.
So, Jimmie Lee, take it over.
JIMMIE LEE SOLOMON: Well, I had a two-page speech; he gave every bit of it. I don't have much left to say. I want to also give recognition a little bit. I want to recognize the owners of the White Sox who are present. I see Jerry Reinsdorf, Eddie Einhorn, Dennis Gilbert; Michael Reinsdorf, also, and I wants to thank them a lot. I know no one in the Mets ownership is here, but thank you, also, for your participation.
Also in the audience is Bob DuPuy, our COO and president of Major League Baseball. We've been very supportive of our Commissioner Selig in making sure that baseball maintains a place in the forefront of the civil rights movement and is a forward-thinking industry that has been successful economically, but also is successful from a society standpoint.
Major League Baseball is very proud of its role in the civil rights movement. When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, he did more than just integrate baseball. He actually provided a great experiment for our society. Baseball, as you may or a not know, integrated before public schools, integrated before the Armed Forces. When Jackie succeeded in baseball, many people in various walks of life saw that it was okay for a black man and a white man to play together, to win together, to lose together, to compete and to excel. And that went a long way in helping us understand that we as a diverse society can live together in communities, eat at lunch counters, ride on buses together and basically live a very vibrant life.
Last year's Civil Rights Game was a tremendously successful event -- excuse me. The inaugural event was actually this year, but a tremendously successful event. With participation of the New York Mets organization and the Chicago White Sox organization next year, we know they will carry on that tradition.
I want to say that I'm also extremely, extremely proud of the four men that are sitting on the dais. They represent forward-thinking in the leadership that our industry has produced. They have been successful. They are diverse. As you can see, they will speak for themselves, but I am very, very proud that they have agreed to participate this year in the Civil Rights Game, and I'm very proud to call them my friend.
I want you to know, one thing that Billy didn't mention is that all of the proceeds go to charity. Last year we gave more than a quarter of a million dollars to the NAACP, the Legal Defense Fund, the Civil Rights Museum, the Negro League Museum, and the Memphis Redbirds charities.
A little housekeeping here.
I want to tell you all that tickets will go on sale Wednesday on Mets.com, WhiteSox.com and MemphisRedbirds.com, along with MLB.com and the AutoZone ticket office. I am just as proud as I can be. I don't want to belabor the point. I'd like to let the guys who are on the dais also have a chance to speak.
Thank you all for coming, and thank you all for covering this, and I think we'll go a long way in making sure that our organization, baseball as an organization, will be the preeminent societal organization with respect to sports.
I would be remiss if I didn't also say that the person in our office who has been working very fervently to make sure this happens is Sylvia Lind. She doesn't get enough credit. I take all of her credit a lot of the times, but she does a tremendous job of making sure this thing does actually happen. She, along with Dave Chase of the Redbirds, actually make me very proud to be a part of this organization. Thank you all very much.
BILLY SAMPLE: Thank you, Jimmie Lee. There have been three managers of African descent, general managers in the Major Leagues. One was Bill Lucas, who was appointed by Ted Turner at the helm of the Braves, at the time was VP of baseball operations, later became the general manager in 1976. Bill was there; in fact, he played for the Braves when they were in Milwaukee in the 50s and went through the organization before he became the general manager and was responsible for some of those teams, especially the Braves teams. In 1982 they had a ceremony when he was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2006 and Dale Murphy, the two-time MVP, was very effusive in his praise for Bill and his thanks for helping him go through the organization. Some of you may remember Dale as sort of a scattered catcher who threw the ball to centerfield quite a bit. That's eventually where they placed him and he won all of his Gold Gloves there.
The second manager is right here in the front row, second general manager of African descent, Bob Watson. He took the Yankees to the world championship in 1986 after a 18-year hiatus and had not won since Willie Randolph was there.
And the third person of African descent has been a general manager in the Major Leagues, he was appointed by Reinsdorf in 2001, took the White Sox to the championship in 2005. I talked about going to smart schools; well, he didn't go to Harvard; Stanford something, not small potatoes, either. So he brings a lot of intelligence. He was the third-round pick of the White Sox in 1982 and again, South Side has not seen a championship since 1917, so they had an 88-year hiatus between winning championships, and at the helm of that was Ken Williams.
KEN WILLIAMS: Since the Harvard-educated Jimmie Lee Solomon just insulted the Stanford-educated, we are pulling out of the game. (Laughter.)
In all seriousness, it was an easy call when Jimmie Lee called me and asked if we would participate in this event. It was easy for a number of reasons. After giving him a little bit of a hard time behind us not being the first participants, we got to the heart of the matter. And what it is is something that's very personal to not only our organization, but to me personally, and it makes you proud to be part of something that is more than just a game; when you're talking about affecting people's lives in a charitable way; when you are talking about representing and standing for something.
A couple of years ago, Ozzie and I were just talking, we took the world championship team the year after we won the championship, and I had accepted an award at the Negro league Hall of Fame. And if you have not been to the Negro League Hall of Fame, please make it a point when you are in Kansas City and to spread the word, because my biggest fear is that some of the things that people have strived for and sacrificed for over the years are going to be forgotten. And the only way that they will be alive for future generations is through an increased effort to support some of these causes, to support the Negro League Hall of Fame, to support what we are doing here with the Civil Rights Game.
Again, an easy call. But when we did that, we did that with that mind-set where we pulled up two buses full of our players and visited that Hall of Fame in support; and when the White Sox over the years have been called prior to Ken Williams being involved; Jerry Reinsdorf, equal opportunity committee in baseball, and played a large role in getting baseball to adopt some of the diversity practices that are in play now.
So this goes beyond people here, beyond Jerry Reinsdorf and some of the other people that we've ridden their coattails. It goes back to the Jackie Robinson days, yes, but that's on the field.
One of the things I look forward to the most is going to the Civil Rights Museum, because that's real life and that is beyond the games that we play. We play the games to take us away from the realities of life, but in essence when we get back to what's real, those are the things that's real. They make us who we are and who we are going to develop into the next generation.
So again, thank you, Jimmie Lee and Sylvia, and all of the people that are responsible for this. I still think we should have been in the first game, but we're over that now, and we'll move on. Thanks. (Laughter.)
BILLY SAMPLE: Thank you, Kenny. Sometimes when you're a member a racial and ethnic minority and you're trying to achieve racial equality or ethnic equality, you have to go through a number of barriers. And when you do that, you become a first in many areas, and the next person at the dais has become a first. He was first manager from Venezuela to manage in the Major Leagues, and shortly after that, he became the first manager to take the World Series winning trophy to his homeland in Venezuela; that is, Ozzie Guillén.
OZZIE GUILLÉN: I feel proud to, first of all, sit on this table for the first time. I wanted to sit next to the guy who saw me when I was what 17 years old and signed to the White Sox. I wanted to represent the team in the game, I think it's something we are looking forward to. Kenny talked to me about it and we feel proud and great about being part of that.
My speech is going to be pretty short. But there's one thing I want to tell Kenny and Jerry. In the past, I think everybody in in the American League, the Commissioner or Major League Baseball or American League president, whoever is in charge, to make everybody make in Kansas City a mandatory stop the Negro League Museum. Have a bus in the hotel and make those guys go 12,00, 12:30, most of the people go to the ballpark, and make those guys see what we just saw. It's unbelievable.
I think it's a great thing about baseball, and it's one of my best experience I have in the game. After we were done, the only thing we talked about in the clubhouse was everything we saw, the real thing, how baseball was played, how important it was to make us to be who we are, and how lucky we are to be in this game right now. And it's just something I think Major League Baseball should help those people to get this museum going the right way, and it's not problem because next to the museum is an unbelievable restaurant. (Laughter.)
KEN WILLIAMS: The whole team went to soul food. (Smiling)
OZZIE GUILLÉN: And I think it was so awesome and they should do that. They should make it mandatory players go there, and hopefully the Players Association agrees with that and helps. This is a beautiful thing. As another thing, hopefully this is the first step to future games that might start that day, and hopefully we play this guy next to my left in the World Series. Thank you.
BILLY SAMPLE: Thank you, Ozzie.
In keeping with my many theme of firsts, the next man I'll introduce at the dais, in 2002 became the first general manager born in a Latin American country, and that was with the Montréal Expos and he went from there to the New York Mets in 2004. After the 2004 season, and in 2006, they made the playoffs, Omar Minaya.
OMAR MINAYA: As Kenny said before, I want to thank Jimmie Lee for allowing the New York Mets to be part of this game. And as Kenny said before, this is not just another game of baseball.
This is really a moment of reflection for society, and when you think of the civil rights. When you think about Jackie Robinson, I felt at the time, similar to Kenny, I said, hey, you know, I wish the Mets would be able to play in that game and why the Mets weren't able to play in that game. You know, we're an organization that we were founded when the Dodgers and Giants decided to go out west, and there's always been a connection with Jackie Robinson with our franchise. Our new stadium is going to be a replica of Ebbets Field. As a kid that was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City, you know, you think of Jackie Robinson, his impact on society, his impact on the game, but more than the game, his impact across barriers.
I am fortunate to be here today as a general manager of the New York Mets because of Jackie Robinson. And I think when we play this game, I've been fortunate enough to be able to go to the Civil Rights Museum, to go and walk through those aisles and just reflect on what Jackie and those similar to Jackie did for allowing us to be where we are today.
I know our ownership, Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, they believe in this cause, they believe in this game, and I feel fortunate in talking to Jimmie that we pressed Jimmie to be able to be part of this it game. Jerry Reinsdorf, Mr. Reinsdorf, I know the work that you've done over the years to allow Ken and to allow this four group of guys to be here today, the Commissioner of baseball, Bob DuPuy in giving me the first opportunity to be able to the general manager of the Montréal Expos.
We are here today fortune enough because of brave men of courage to be able to look at this situation as far as baseball and put us where we are today. The game continues to improve; yes we are an example of the work that has been done, and we are brave and courageous men, but the most courageous of all was Jackie.
And when I think of this game, we think of Jackie, we think of others, whether they were African-American or Latino, that they have made the game better, and in a lot of sense they made our country better and we are fortunate enough today to be part of this, and we the Mets are fortunate enough to be part of this game.
And Jimmie, thank you for giving us that opportunity, even though we came close a couple of times to not playing this game because of the 162-game schedule, and Sylvia knows about that, and we can talk about that.
But the Mets are proud and I'm very fortunate as at general manager to be able to participate. (Turning, putting arm around Willie Randolph) And I know this great man right here next to me who was born and raised in Brooklyn just can't wait to talk about what it means to him.
BILLY SAMPLE: Thank you Omar. I was going to mention, too, that he was raised in Brooklyn, that sort of brings it all together. Even though Willie was born in South Carolina and raised in Brooklyn; two World Series titles as a player, six All-Star Games, he's one of the few players that walked more than he struck out in his career. And I want to say off the top of my head it was 568 more walks than strikeouts in addition to the six All-Star games and more than 2,200 hits.
But Willie, to be honest with you, if my strike zone was as small as yours, I would have walked twice as much.
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Eat your heart out (laughing).
BILLY SAMPLE: One of the class guys. I had the good fortune of working with Willie one year in 1985 with the Yankees and I really appreciate it for a long tile. Mets manager, Willie Randolph.
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Thank you. How's everybody doing? I tell you, it's an honor for me to be a part of this distinguished dais.
When you think about civil rights and the fact that it wasn't for the struggle of civil rights and Martin Luther King and Jackie Robinson went through, we would not be sitting here tonight. It gives me goosebumps when I think about going back to Brooklyn and where I came from and how it was a struggle. But I think it was a struggle for all of us, and it just gives me a great sense of pride to be able to be here and participate in this game.
When Omar first mentioned to me at the end of the season, I said, wow, you've got to do this. Even though sometimes at beginning of Spring Training, thinking about that trip before you get to your destination, it's kind of rough. But these players are going to love the fact that we are representing our teams in this game. We should be very proud of the fact that we were selected to participate in this game.
And like I said earlier, you know, we've all had different paths and gone through different phases of life, but I think we are all very blessed and fortunate to be a part of this and understand that, you know, if it wasn't for the people who fought and for the people that really believed in the vision, we would not be here right now.
So I pinch myself every day, because I always think about growing up in Brooklyn, New York and being a Met fan, and, obviously, being a Yankee for all of those years and winning championships; and to have the opportunity that Omar gave me in the Met organization to manage my hometown team, again, it's a special, special privilege, and I thank the good Lord every day for the opportunity.
You know, we have a long off-season coming up, but I can't wait till Spring Training so we can finish it off with a game and get ready for a championship season. I thank you guys for being here.
BILLY SAMPLE: Thank you.
A couple other people out in the audience. Joe Garagiola, junior VP of Major League Baseball. Dale Petroskey, president of the Major League Baseball hall of Fame, and Silvia Alvarez, charitable and cultural operations, she's put it all together for us.
Q. When was it that you escort Rachel (Robinson), was it 1987 at Yankee Stadium?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Yes, when they retired Jackie's number. That was one of the biggest moments of my life. Rachel, who I know personally, lovely lady; one of the biggest honors of my life to be able to escort her down the middle of Yankee Stadium.
But I think you've got to check that for me. I think it was right around '79, '80, somewhere around that. You've got to double-check that. But I have a beautiful shot of that in my home that I display very proudly, and Rachel, is an outstanding human being.
KEN WILLIAMS: I just have one thing to add, and I don't mean to take up too much time here, and the point that I'm going to try to articulate. But so often when I hear the term "civil rights," and I've heard things and I've read things on last year's game. So often it's referred back to, you know, days -- past days, in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s.
I would just like to remind everyone that is reporting on the game, talking about the game in their various circles that we still have several rights issues in this country that we're dealing with on a day-to-day basis now. So this game can also serve as a platform to, yes, look back and respect the past; but also, look forward in terms of respecting where we're going with our civil rights.
And again, one of last civil rights that are out there; the right to an education, the right to go and compete in the workplace and some of the things that we are still dealing with. But if we open the conversations up, if we have a dialogue like some of the forums that we're going to have to discuss some of these issues down in Memphis, it does not have to be limited to the past. It can be a reflection on the past, but with the mind-set that we have the ability to change our present.
So it's just something that I felt it necessary to say. Hopefully we can keep that in mind as we all approach this game and look towards this being a current event as well as respecting the past.
BILLY SAMPLE: Keep in mind that the game, once again, is March 29th, and the 28th we'll have a panel discussion, and also we'll be awarding the Beacon Award, three different levels of the Beacon Award. That will be in Memphis as last year's game was. And tickets will go on sale on Wednesday. Is that correct, Jimmie Lee?
JIMMIE LEE SOLOMON: Yes, Wednesday.
BILLY SAMPLE: And you can get them on MLB.com and other entities. I know there are some other entities, as well, but MLB.com, you can go there. I wouldn't say that simply because I draw attention from there, but there's some other entities, as well, that you can buy your tickets from. We plan to see y'all there.
End of FastScripts