"To me it's celebrating how the game has evolved and society has evolved," Reds reliever David Weathers said. "Hopefully we don't see the color of skin in a game like this and celebrate what a great country we live in, and now opportunities are equal for all of us."
Reds right fielder Jay Bruce and reliever Nick Masset were among players that ordered a Braves No. 44 old-style Hank Aaron jersey. Aaron is one of three icons -- along with Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby -- being honored Saturday afternoon during the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards Luncheon.
Bruce was hoping that manager Dusty Baker, a close friend and ex-teammate of Aaron's, could get his jersey autographed from the former all-time home runs leader.
"It'd mean a whole lot to me -- not just as baseball players, but what they've done for the game," Bruce said. "I'm really, really excited. I'm trying to learn more about baseball history and what it means. The Civil Rights Game isn't just about baseball. It's about the country becoming more unified. Racism was a big part of the world back then. I think the Civil Rights Game speaks a lot about what we're about."
"It's definitely exciting with it being the Civil Rights Game and having all the celebrities here," Masset said. "It will be nice to play in it."
Last weekend while the Reds were playing the Royals in Kansas City, Baker took several of his younger players to the Negro League Museum. The timing could not have been better considering the events of this weekend.
"I had no idea some of the greats in the Major Leagues had played in the Negro Leagues. It was awesome," Bruce said. "I liked learning about how those guys played and went about it, like Josh Gibson, who hit so many home runs. They were such great players."
Before the game, starting at approximately 6:50 p.m. ET, Aaron, Ali and Cosby will be honored on the field. Gospel singer BeBe Winans will sing the national anthem, and country singer Rissi Palmer will sing "America the Beautiful."
Both teams will be wearing throwback uniforms from the year 1964, which was when the Civil Rights Act was passed to outlaw racial segregation in schools, public places and employment.
Both the Reds and White Sox are very much in their respective division races, and unlike the previous two editions of the Civil Rights Game that were held in the preseason, the game has ramifications in the standings.
"There will be a lot of pregame stuff, but it is also another game on our schedule," Bruce said. "It's another game we need to win and play well in to give ourselves the best chance to win."
CIN: RHP Johnny Cueto (6-4, 2.17 ERA)
Cueto was the victim of the Reds' fielding woes in his previous start, a 7-1 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. Although Cueto allowed five runs, none of them were earned in his first loss since May 29. Cueto has pitched at least six innings in his last 10 starts and has posted a 0.93 ERA in June. This will be the first time he has faced the White Sox in his career.
CWS: LHP Clayton Richard (2-1, 3.76 ERA)
Richard threw five solid innings in his last start against Milwaukee on Friday, holding the Brewers to one run on four hits on three days' rest. He threw 102 pitches and was pulled in the sixth inning after his throwing error put the leadoff runner on base. Richard also got his first career hit in the game, a double to center field. Richard has never faced the Reds.
Baker talks Taveras
Baker did not start struggling center fielder Willy Taveras on Friday. Chris Dickerson led off and played center field.
Taveras is on a 1-for-45 clip at the plate and 8-for-94 (.085) over his last 23 games. The White Sox have lefty starters the next two games, so Baker said to expect Taveras to start both of them. He also revealed his annoyance with the second-guessing of his decision to stick with Taveras.
"I know he's struggling, but we tend to jump from one guy to the next guy on who we want to play or who is not playing or whatever," Baker said. "First everybody wanted [Laynce] Nix to play instead of Dickerson or somebody instead of somebody else. They want Dickerson instead of Taveras. It's a long season. You have to go with a guy's track record, too.
"Quite honestly, I'm getting a little tired of justifying who I play and how long and when. We're doing what we can do right now."
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Official game notes
Sunday: Reds (Aaron Harang, 5-6, 3.65) vs. White Sox (Mark Buehrle, 6-2, 3.43), 1:10 p.m. ET
Tuesday: Reds (Micah Owings, 4-7, 4.50) at Blue Jays (TBD), 7:07 p.m. ET