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Bo Jackson honored for civil-rights work before Sox’ victory vs. Rangers

Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson

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Updated: September 26, 2013 6:58AM



White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers is like many members of his generation: He is interested in the history of the civil-rights movement but incredulous at the thought that an era of segregation existed.

‘‘Even slavery,’’ Flowers, 27, said. ‘‘How is that even possible? ‘I own this slave.’ ’’

The movie ‘‘42,’’ about what Jackie Robinson went through in breaking the major-league color barrier, made an impression, too.

‘‘I guess my generation does a lot better with seeing things,’’ he said of the greater impact of the movie over reading the history. ‘‘You try to put yourself in his shoes, and it makes you wonder how he was able to persevere in that situation.’’

Major League Baseball’s weekend of events in Chicago for the Civil Rights Game included the Beacon Awards luncheon Saturday that honored former Sox slugger Bo Jackson and singer Aretha Franklin.

‘‘Just recognizing what we’ve all been through, where we’ve come from and where we are going, there’s absolutely a sense of pride to that,’’ said reliever Donnie Veal, the only African-American player on the Sox’ major-league roster.

‘‘It’s crazy how far it’s come, and it didn’t happen that long ago,’’ said Sox closer Addison Reed, 24. ‘‘I can’t imagine being hated everywhere you went.’’

Baseball is a worldwide sport now, and the Sox’ game Saturday against the Texas Rangers showed that. Japanese star Yu Darvish started for the Rangers. The Sox countered with Hector Santiago, a New Jersey native of Latin descent.

Neither was involved in the decision, with each allowing a two-run home run — Santiago to former teammate Alex Rios in the fifth and Darvish to Adam Dunn in the sixth. Josh Phegley’s single with two outs in the ninth gave the Sox a 3-2 victory.

Jackson, a two-sport athlete who ended his baseball career with the Sox, was honored before the game. The video highlights showed his greatest moments, including his game-winning homer that clinched a playoff spot for the Sox in 1993.

Jackson said the award, which he received for life work embodying the spirit of the civil-rights movement, was special.

‘‘This honor ranks up there from the standpoint that my peers have
recognized my work off the playing field,’’ he said. ‘‘Not only do I do it from the heart, I do it because I hope the public will look at me as a role model and that I try to give back.’’

Jackson started a charitable foundation more than five years ago. His aim is to get inner-city youth involved in organized baseball through academics. He works with schools in the ­Chicago area, abiding by a principle his mom taught him.

‘‘My mother, who had a high school education, always told me you can’t be successful on the athletic field unless you’re successful in the classroom,’’ he said. ‘‘I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I brought the D’s and F’s up to B’s and C’s in order to play ­organized sports.’’

Along the way, Jackson educated himself about civil rights.

‘‘When Dr. [Martin Luther] King gave that [‘I Have a Dream’] speech, I was 8 or 9 months old,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘I learned and soaked up knowledge from my family. . . . They always say, ‘You can forgive, but you don’t forget.’ I think we can sit down and educate this generation so they will understand the meaning of civil rights.’’

Email: tginnetti@suntimes.com

Twitter: @toniginnetti



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