Tyler Flowers, 27, is like many of his generation—interested in the history of the Civil Rights movement and at the same time incredulous at the idea of the era of segregation.“Even slavery,’’ the White Sox catcher said. “How is that even possible? `I own this slave.’ ‘’
The movie “42’’ about Jackie Robinson’s ordeals in breaking baseball’s color barrier made an impression, too.
“I guess my generation does a lot better with seeing things,’’ he said of the greater impact of the movie over reading the history. “You try to put yourself in his shoes, and it makes you wonder how he was able to persevere in that situation.’’
MLB’s weekend of events in Chicago for the annual Civil Rights Game included Saturday’s Beacon Awards luncheon honoring Bo Jackson and singer Aretha Franklin, and attended by Hall of Fame greats including Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson and Billy Williams.
“Just recognizing what we’ve all been through, where we’ve come from and where we are going—there’s absolutely a sense of pride to that,’’ said pitcher Donnie Veal, the only African American on the Sox.
“It’s crazy how far it’s come—and it didn’t happen that long ago,’’ said pitcher Addison Reed, 24. “I can’t imagine being hated everywhere you went.
“We have a bunch of different ethnicities here, and to think it wasn’t that long ago it wasn’t like this.’’
Baseball is worldwide now, and the Sox game against Texas Saturday—designated as MLB’s seventh annual Civil Rights Game—showed that.
On the mount for the Rangers was start pitcher Yu Darvish from Japan.
The Sox countered with Hector Santiago, a New Jersey native of Latino descent.
Neither was involved in the decision, each allowing two-run homers in a 2-2 tie. Darvish struck out 11 in seven innings. Santiago struck out six in 6 1/3 innings.
Josh Phegley’s single with two outs in the ninth gave the Sox a 3-2 walk-off victory.
Jackson, the most famous two-sport athlete who ended his baseball career with the Sox, was honored before the game. The video highlights showed his greatest moments – the best for Sox fans his game-winning home run to clinch a playoff spot in 1993.
Jackson said the Beacon Award, given for life work embodying the spirit of the civil rights movement, was special.
“This honor ranks up there from the standpoint that my peers have recognized my work off the playing field,’’ he said. “It’s because not only do I do it from the heart, I do it because I hope the public will look at me as a role model and that I try to give back.’’
Jackson, who made his home here after his career, started a charitable foundation more than five years ago whose aim is to get inner city youth involved in organized baseball, but through academics.
He works with schools in the area, abiding by the principle his mother taught him.
“My mother, who had a high school education, always told me you can’t be successful on the athletic field unless you’re successful in the classroom,’’ he said. “I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I brought the Ds and Fs up to Bs and Cs in order to play organized sports.’’
Along the way, Jackson educated himself about the civil rights movement.
“When Dr. King gave that [“I Have A Dream’’] speech, I was 8 or 9 months old. I learned and soaked up knowledge from my family. What I know about the civil rights movement is what I’ve been told by others. Some of it’s good and some of it’s bad. But you learn. I try to absorb as much as I can from people who went through those times and experiences. They always say `you can forgive, but you don’t forget.’
“I think we can sit down and educate this generation to let them understand so they will understand the meaning of civil rights.’’