Rickwood Field, 104 years old, to host MLB game honoring Black heritage

Fred Jeter | 6/20/2024, 7 a.m.
Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, now 104 years old, is back in the news.
Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., is the country’s oldest baseball stadium. Photo by Michael Harding

Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, now 104 years old, is back in the news.

Regarded as America’s oldest professional ballpark, Rickwood will be front and center later this month.

On June 20, the San Francisco Giants will face the St. Louis Cardinals in a Major League game honoring African American heritage. This is in conjunction with Juneteenth celebrations.

Opening in 1910, Rickwood served as the home diamond for the white Birmingham Barons and the Black Barons, a Negro Leagues affiliate.

Among the most celebrated athletes to suit up at Rickwood is the late Willie Mays, who broke into pro ball there as a 17-year-old outfielder in 1948. Mays was born in Westfield, Ala., some 70 miles from Birmingham.

Rickwood was used for scenes in the movie biopics for Jackie Robinson (“42”) and Ty Cobb (“Cobb”).

It was also used for the 1996 TV film “Soul of the Game.”

The current Birmingham Barons, a Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, plays at Regions Field, also in downtown Birmingham.

Both the Giants (founded in 1883) and Cardinals (1882) went many decades without a Black player. The Giants broke their color line in 1949 with outfielders Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson. Mays came along in 1951. The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958. St. Louis’ first Black player was first baseman Tom Alston in 1954.

photo  Barry Bonds

Since 2008, the Richmond Flying Squirrels have been the Giants’ Double-A affiliate. Famous African American players in Giants lore include Hall of Famers Mays and Willie McCovey, home run king Barry Bonds and Dominican pitcher Juan Marichal. Bonds’ father Bobby also starred for the Giants.

There will be no Mays on June 20 at Rickwood, but shortstop Masyn Winn, 22, looms as a star for the Cardinals. The Texas native was hitting .306 in early June.