And as soon as Gordon Beckham made contact on the 2-1 offering, the rookie knew he had a chance to make this third annual Civil Rights Game an important personal memory aside from meeting legendary figures such as Henry Aaron, Bill Cosby and Muhammad Ali.
"I hit it OK and I figured it was going to go," said Beckham of his first career home run, which traveled 384 feet to left. "I wasn't taking any chances. I was running hard, and I was just happy it went out."
Not as happy as the White Sox.
At Beckham's point of contact, the South Siders found themselves in a 5-0 hole. But the long ball followed singles from Brian Anderson and Chris Getz, meaning the deficit immediately was trimmed to two. The timing of career home run No. 1 for Beckham was just as important as actually hitting it.
"It was a great feeling," Beckham said. "But it was more important for the game and for the team than it was for me."
"That was huge," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Beckham's blast. "They are up by five runs, and all of a sudden, now you are down by two. You get a second wind and hope you get back in the game right away."
Beckham felt as if he contributed to the five-run deficit by being unable to catch A.J. Pierzynski's throw to third base on a first-inning double-steal attempt by Willy Taveras and Brandon Phillips. The ball went into left field, eventually scoring both runners, and Pierzynski was charged with an error. But Beckham pointed out that he would have caught the ball if his glove was turned the right way.
On the final scorecard, Beckham contributed to two runs scoring for the Reds, but the eighth pick overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, who reached the Majors 364 days after he was selected by the White Sox out of the University of Georgia, drove in three and scored a fourth. Beckham entered the game hitting .159 with five RBIs, but after a 2-for-28 start over his first eight games, the third baseman is 6-for-20 with eight RBIs and three extra-base hits in his last six games.
More importantly, Beckham also tied Mark Buehrle, Sunday's starting pitcher, at one home run apiece.
"Yeah, I have to break that tie at some point," said Beckham with a grin.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less