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Baker: Civil Rights Game big for Cincinnati

Baker: Civil Rights Game big for Cincinnati

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CINCINNATI -- To say that Reds manager Dusty Baker is a fan of having the Gillette Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati would be an understatement at best.

Right behind Baker's desk in his office is a large photo of 2009 MLB Beacon Award winner and friend Hank Aaron standing with him and Baker's son, Darren. Baker still has fond memories from meeting other honored guests like Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby, among others.

"It was a big day in town. It's good for the city," Baker said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Major League Baseball and the Reds announced that the 2010 Gillette Civil Rights Game would be held on May 15 vs. the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park. The MLB Beacon Award recipients will be Willie Mays, Billie Jean King and Harry Belafonte.

Other honored guests in town during the weekend of events will be Lena Horne, Rachel Robinson, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and the Beacon Award Luncheon keynote speaker, Andrew Young.

"That's pretty deep. It'll be pretty exciting," Baker said of the guest list. "That brings good energy and excitement once you get into the season. That was a dynamite event last year."

Baker, who used to manage the Giants and still lives in Northern California, remains friends with Mays, a Giants great and Hall of Famer.

"I talk to Willie quite often when I'm back home. He's a good man," Baker said.

During last June's Civil Rights Game vs. the White Sox, the Reds wore 1964 throwback uniforms, which marked the year the Civil Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. For this year's game, the team is expected to wear uniforms from 1954, which was the season that Chuck Harmon became the first African-American to play for the Reds.

"I thought it was great," outfielder Chris Dickerson said of last year's festivities. "It's a special thing they did and it was special to be a part of it. It was very nostalgic, especially with the uniforms. You're paying tribute to all of the guys in our sport, and other sports, that came before us that made it possible. They prevailed through all the trials and tribulations. It was fun. I enjoyed it."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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