Museum opens White Sox eyes

Museum opens White Sox eyes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jermaine Dye usually is the center of attention when he meets with members of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Chicago, through his JD's MVP program, or other youth groups in his ongoing outreach as a Major League player to influence the country's future.

But on Saturday morning, Dye shared the stage with 16-year-old actor Kyle Massey at AutoZone Park in Memphis during a discussion with close to 100 kids as part of Civil Rights Game weekend. The star of Cory in the House and the co-star of That's So Raven even stole the show, at times, during a question and answer session, which was fine with the White Sox right fielder.

"He's funny," said Dye. "He could have run that whole panel."

It was a busy day for Dye, who came into Memphis with his teammates around 2 a.m. CT on Saturday. Following the session at the ballpark, the White Sox took an hour-long tour at the Civil Rights Museum and then played the Mets in their final exhibition contest.

Although the tour was not a private one -- and as chairman Jerry Reinsdorf pointed out, the team went through too quickly to have any time to concentrate on the numerous specific exhibits -- it did have a strong impact on the players, coaches and White Sox administrators alike. For Reinsdorf, it was a trip back in time some 40 years ago, to a period he actually witnessed first-hand.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Reinsdorf said. "I was 32 years old. I remember watching Lyndon Johnson giving a talk on television about something or another, and at that end, he announced without warning he wasn't going to run again for President.

"The first Kennedy assassination [John F. Kennedy] was still fresh in our mind, and then in April, Martin Luther King gets killed. I remember I had to go to a meeting outside of Detroit, I drove up there and when we got near the city limits, the whole city of Detroit was closed.

"There were tanks and soldiers and [National] Guardsmen," Reinsdorf added. "June comes and Bobby Kennedy is killed, and I'm thinking, 'Where am I living? What is this country all about?' It's surreal because this brings it all back. I lived all this. I remembered all this, yet virtually everyone who walks in here today wasn't born."

Manager Ozzie Guillen was 4 years old when King was killed at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, a recreated part of the Civil Rights Museum tour the White Sox witnessed Saturday. Dye was not yet alive, but memories of the past still held significant meaning in his present.

"Seeing where Martin Luther King was assassinated -- and learning about all the things that went on back in time -- it was a great experience," Dye said. "It's always good to see how you are able to be what you are now and how it all came about."

"Sometimes we take a lot of stuff for granted. We don't know who we are until we see the past," Guillen added. "After you see what they went through, and how much they had to fight, it was outstanding. It was something that will stick in your mind."

Saturday's morning session with Dye will stick with a group of 45 youth baseball players from Chicago, who Dale Caridine brought by bus from Chicago. Caridine, a 48-year-old father of five and grandfather of five, has been a Chicago police officer for the past 16 years, working in the preventive programs unit.

He lends his time to numerous youth athletic leagues and thought the Civil Rights Game weekend would be an "enlightening experience" for the players. The group made the 15-hour bus trip from Chicago to Memphis.

"I thought it would open some young eyes to experience this and be a part of history," Caridine said.

Dye played a major role in the experience, as did Massey, who was swarmed by autograph seekers after the session. Dye hopes his message of hard work to get what you want in life made it through to the kids, but he also earned some points with his own three children.

"Right after it was over, I talked to my kids. They knew who he was," said Dye of Massey with a laugh. "You can see the kids [on Saturday] were paying attention, and hopefully, I'll be able to make a difference in a handful of their lives."

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