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01/18/10 4:30 PM EST

Astros take part in Houston's MLK parade

Cabell, Wynn, Wright help celebrate Civil Rights leader

HOUSTON -- Enos Cabell remembers a time when he wasn't allowed to stay in the same hotel with his white teammates when he was a player in the Minor Leagues. Cabell and his fellow African-American teammates would get dropped off a few blocks away at a different hotel before the bus proceeded to the team hotel.

That was only 40 years ago, not long after the death of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and during a volatile time when racial segregation was still accepted in some areas. Cabell, 61, now marvels at the strides the nation has made when it comes to race.

"We've come a long way," he said Monday as he signed autographs for hundreds of fans on the steps of Houston City Hall as part of the city's Martin Luther Jr. Day celebration.

Cabell, former Astros slugger Jimmy Wynn, left-hander Wesley Wright and radio announcer Dave Raymond participated in the 16th annual MLK Grande Parade in downtown Houston before signing autographs and helping conduct a special Houston Astros/MLB Urban Youth Academy Clinic at MacGregor Park.

Cabell, who had 1,647 hits in 15 Major League seasons (eight with the Astros), has served as a special assistant to the general manager for the last five years. Monday was the sixth MLK parade for Cabell, who retired as a player in 1986.

"It's getting bigger and larger every year," he said. "I just enjoy it. MLK means a lot to most of us older guys, more so than the younger ones, and it was really a privilege to be in it."

Wright, 25, may be young, but he fully understands the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. Wright was born in Montgomery, Ala. -- site of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott led by King and a key spot in the Civil Rights movement.

"Growing up in Alabama and the heart of the Civil Rights movement, I'm very familiar with it," Wright said. "To see the celebration and see everybody come together for such a great cause is a beautiful thing."

Cabell hopes a younger generation of African-Americans doesn't forget the difficult times of the 1950s and '60s.

"Maybe they'll learn a lot more of what happened," Cabell said. "But when you experience what went on back in those days, it's a different feeling."

Wynn, 67, said being able to participate in the parade meant a great deal to him.

"MLK Day and just the chance to recognize him one more time makes you feel good," he said. "Each year that goes by, we have to remember what he was able to accomplish before and after his death."

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