CHICAGO -- The weekend of Aug. 23-25 will be one to remember on the South Side of Chicago, with the always popular Elvis Night -- including fireworks after the game -- and the return of former Sox A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Rios and Neal Cotts as members of the visiting Rangers.
But it will be Major League Baseball's seventh annual Civil Rights Game that will make the weekend most memorable. With programs taking place on both Friday and Saturday afternoons before the game itself on Saturday night, the special event -- as it has in Memphis, Cincinnati and Atlanta in prior years -- will transcend the on-field action.
"Martin Luther King said he couldn't have done what he did if it hadn't been for Jackie Robinson," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "This series of games is important to remind people of the role that baseball has played in the Civil Rights movement."
"I'm looking forward to it just because of the history our franchise has. The history that Chicago has," White Sox senior vice president of communications Scott Reifert said. "Each time this is held, I think in each city, it gives that city an opportunity to celebrate its history from that perspective, and I think that's really neat."
This marks the third time the White Sox have been involved in the Civil Rights Game. It begins with a roundtable discussion on Friday, Aug. 23, titled "Baseball & The Civil Rights Movement," taking place at the Chicago Cultural Center from 12:30-2 p.m. CT. The event is free of charge.
White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams and agent Larry Reynolds are two of the members of the panel, which will be moderated by Harold Reynolds. Thomas Tull, the CEO of Legendary Pictures and the executive producer of this year's movie about Robinson, "42," joins Major League Baseball's Wendy Lewis and Shari Runner, the senior vice president of strategy for the Chicago Urban League, to complete the five-member panel.
"Sometimes it's a neat mix of sports and non-sports perspective," said Reifert, who mentioned that the White Sox will have younger players from their Amateur City Elite baseball program in attendance for the panel discussion.
Saturday brings the MLB Beacon Awards at the Downtown Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue. The Awards run from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT, with ticket information at whitesox.com/civilrightsgame. Bo Jackson, one of the greatest athletes of all-time and a former White Sox standout, and 18-time Grammy winner Aretha Franklin will be honored on Saturday and recognized on the field prior to the game.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Chicago Urban League and La Rabida Children's Hospital, with every member of the current White Sox scheduled to be in attendance.
A kids' clinic will go on at Armour Square Park, which will be followed by the Civil Rights Game between the Rangers and White Sox, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. CT. The whole theme of the evening will be the Civil Rights era.
On March 31, 2007, the first Civil Rights Game took place between the Cardinals and Indians in Memphis. The White Sox played the Mets in 2008 in Memphis, and then played the Reds in Cincinnati on June 20, 2009, to mark the first time this event was part of the regular-season schedule.
When a location was discussed for the 2013 Civil Rights Game, the White Sox jumped at the opportunity.
"Having lived through that era, and having seen it develop ... you know, I was at Jackie Robinson's first game," Reinsdorf said. "It just has meaning, that's all.
"So many of the young people today didn't even know who Jackie Robinson or who Martin Luther King was. It's important to hear the whole story about how all this evolved. How it got to where it is today."