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Sat, 03.28.1970

Major League Baseball Game Honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

*On this date in 1970, Major League Baseball honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In early December 1968, after King's murder, a letter from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) sports project director Joseph Peters was sent to the (then) Commissioner of Baseball, William “Spike” Eckert, and members of the executive council.

It read, in part: “Shortly after the assassination of Dr. King, many professional players came to SCLC with the question ‘What can we do as a memorial to this great man?’ After a brief deliberation, SCLC decided that the players could best express their sentiments by playing a game in memory of Dr. King, and the funds raised would be used by SCLC to continue the work of our fallen leader.” 

Reports were that major league baseball would honor the memory of Dr. King by helping to stage an exhibition game in Los Angeles on March 29. 1969 which was moved back one season.   The game occurred at Dodger Stadium less than two years after King's death and remains one of the greatest (forgotten) games ever played.  The Baseball Writers' Association of America selected two players from each MLB's 24 teams, with rosters broken up by East and West. 

East: Managed by Joe DiMaggio; included future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson, Ron Santo, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, and Willie Stargell.  West: Managed by Roy Campanella; included future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Willie Mays.   Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, threw out the first pitch.  The East won, 5-1, behind six shutout innings from Seaver and Gibson. 31,694 fans attended, and $30,000 was raised.  

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Sitting here alone, in peace With my private sadness Bared of the acquirements Of the mind’s eye Vision reversed, upended, Seeing only the holdings Inside the walls of me, Feeling the roots that bind me, To this... PRIVATE SADNESS by Bob Kaufman.
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