Pujols, Wainwright carry Cardinals to win in inaugural Civil Rights Game

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Baseball's first Civil Rights Game meant a lot to Preston Wilson, the only black player on the St. Louis Cardinals.

"When you say civil rights, you think about the struggles, especially for my race, to be considered equals -- or to even be the same type of human being," Wilson said. "It's just the culmination of everything that leads up to finally achieving a point where the whole world views everyone the same no matter where they are from or what they look like."

Wilson and the Cardinals beat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 on Saturday in an exhibition game that highlighted a weekend of festivities aimed at recognizing blacks in baseball.

With the teams wearing retro-style uniforms, Albert Pujols hit his second home run of spring training and Adam Wainwright allowed one run and three hits in five innings for St. Louis. Wainwright also hit a two-run double in the final regular-season tuneup for both clubs.

St. Louis hosts the New York Mets in the major league opener Sunday night, a rematch of their seven-game NL championship series last October. The Indians travel to Chicago for a Monday opener against the White Sox.

The Cardinals and Indians were chosen for the Civil Rights Game for a reason -- as was the city of Memphis.

The Indians were the first AL team with a black player (Larry Doby in 1947), and Cleveland hired the first black manager in the major leagues: Frank Robinson in 1975.

Memphis is the home of the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, and the National Civil Rights Museum -- which was built on the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

The fact that Wilson is the only black player on the Cardinals is representative of a steady decline in African American players in the big leagues. A study by the University of Central Florida released earlier in the week showed only 8.4 percent of major leaguers last season were African American, the lowest level in at least two decades.

"We need to try and make the game more accessible to young people," Indians manager Eric Wedge said, adding that the lack of college scholarships for baseball has an effect.

Cleveland's run off Wainwright came on an RBI single by Andy Marte. Indians starter Jeremy Sowers went four innings, giving up five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and three walks.

So Taguchi had a pair of sacrifice flies for St. Louis.

Wainwright, who entered with a spring training record of 3-2 and a 0.98 ERA, is making the adjustment back to being a starter after a successful postseason filling in as the Cardinals' closer. The right-hander was a starter in his minor league career but has never started in the majors.

While he was successful Saturday, Wainwright wasn't necessarily pleased. He said the first two innings were satisfying, but he was shaky the rest of the way.

"There were some things I did very poorly," he said. "I didn't locate my curveball very good. The slider was up the whole time, so coming away facing a lineup the way I did with all those hazards was pretty good."

Game notes
The game was the second in Memphis for the Cardinals this weekend. St. Louis beat the Redbirds 6-2 Friday night on Gary Bennett's grand slam. ... A heavy rain passed through the area about three hours before gametime, and the rain stayed around until about 30 minutes before gametime. ... Indians SS Jhonny Peralta said he was feeling no ill effects a day after he was hit in the helmet by a pitch. "Nothing's bothering me. I don't feel dizzy or anything," Peralta said. ... There was some question before the game about using the designated hitter. Cleveland wanted to use it, despite the game being in a National League-affiliated park. But Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had said they were going to let their pitchers hit. "We never got any confirmation on it, so we'll just do it like a National League game," Wedge said. ... The last time the Indians played in Memphis was in a 1960 exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox. Later that night, the stadium, an old tinderbox called Russwood Park, burned to the ground in one of the biggest fires in Memphis history.