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05/16/10 12:50 AM ET

Cards cross paths with baseball royalty

Aaron, Banks, Robinson watch Mays receive Beacon Award

CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals came to Great American Ball Park to take care of some baseball business, but they also got to be exposed to a little royalty.

Willie Mays, tennis great Billie Jean King and singer/activist Harry Belafonte were honored as part of the festivities surrounding the Gillette Civil Rights Game. And while all are noteworthy figures, it's Mays who drew several Cards' attention.

"[He's a] baseball legend," said outfielder/infielder Joe Mather. "He's one of the first names that comes to mind when you think of baseball and you think of the history of baseball. Growing up playing Wiffle ball, [you say], 'I'm Willie Mays!' in the box. I saw he was going to be here, and it gave me goose bumps."

The Cardinals and Reds wore throwback uniforms from 1947 for the game, recognizing the year that Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier.

"It's a cool uniform," said shortstop Brendan Ryan. "I like the old-school stuff. I go with the socks up and everything, so old school is fun to me. We were the selected team, so that's cool."

Following the festivities, the clubs played a taut, memorable game worthy of a national TV audience.

"There were quite a bit of Hall of Famers out there that people wanted to see, from Billie Jean King to Willie Mays," said second baseman Skip Schumaker. "It wasn't different for us [having a sold out crowd], but [that was noticeable]."

Ryan, however, was a bit conflicted when it came to Mays.

"He's a Giant," quipped Ryan, a Los Angeles native. "Legend and everything, yeah, but it's tough, [because] I grew up a Dodger fan."

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