LaBelle joined songbirds like Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Diane Ross to bring the music of soul into homes everywhere. Their voices were as much a part of Americana as apple pie and baseball.
As Major League Baseball remembers the civil rights movement, it will do so with LaBelle, a soul diva, as one of its featured entertainers. She will headline a program Saturday that will play a key role in the inaugural Civil Rights Game, an event that commemorates one of the most critical eras in U.S. history.
The Civil Rights Game, sponsored by AutoZone, will bring two storied franchises here for an exhibition game on Saturday. The Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals will culminate a day of tributes with a 5:30 p.m. ET game -- aired live on ESPN and MLB.TV -- at the Triple-A home of the Memphis Redbirds. MLB.TV will also air a two-hour pregame show beginning at 3:30 p.m.
And those who attend the ballgame will have plenty to commemorate.
For 60 years ago, Jackie Robinson was two weeks away from breaking the color barrier in baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He would be followed to the Majors that '47 season by outfielder Larry Doby (Indians), infielder Hank Thompson (St. Louis Browns), infielder Willard Brown (Browns) and pitcher Dan Bankhead (Dodgers), all of whom were stars from the Negro Leagues.
Their ability to endure the racial taunts and the bigoted slights, and to still play baseball at a high level helped lay one of the cornerstones for a movement that changed America.
"I am proud of the role that Major League Baseball played in the movement, beginning with Jackie Robinson's entry into the big leagues on April 15, 1947," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement that announced the game.
Most of the lineup for the day's activities was announced weeks ago. But the names of the entertainers who will perform during the ballgame weren't made public until early Wednesday.
LaBelle, whose 1975 No. 1 hit "Lady Marmalade" remains an R&B standard, will sing the national anthem; the National Civil Rights Museum Choir will sing "America the Beautiful"; and The Cheetah Girls, a touring girls pop group, will sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less