Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, the oldest professional ballpark in the United States and the longtime home of Negro League Baseball games, will host its first Major League Baseball game one year from today when the St. Louis Cardinals play the San Francisco Giants on June 20, 2024.
“I can’t believe it,” Hall of Famer Willie Mays, 92, who played for the Birmingham Black Barons, said in a statement. “I never thought I’d see in my lifetime a Major League Baseball game being played on the very field where I played baseball as a teenager. It has been 75 years since I played for the Birmingham Black Barons at Rickwood Field, and to learn that my Giants and the Cardinals will play a game there and honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and all those who came before them is really emotional for me. We can’t forget what got us here and that was the Negro Leagues for so many of us.”
Major League Baseball is scheduled to make the official announcement Tuesday morning, with the game played at 7 p.m. ET (Fox) celebrating Juneteenth while also honoring and paying tribute to the Negro Leagues. The teams will be wearing Negro League uniforms celebrating the history of the two cities, with the Cardinals the designated home team.
“I am so excited that Birmingham will be able to share the magic and legacy of Rickwood Field with Major League Baseball’s millions of fans,” Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said in a statement. “America’s oldest professional ballpark still echoes with the sounds of the legends who graced this field. I want to thank Major League Baseball for sharing this vision to commemorate Juneteenth and celebrate the Negro Leagues in the Magic City.”
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This will be the first MLB game played in a historic Negro Leagues ballpark, and certainly will not be the last. Historic Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey, which re-opened last month, is likely to host a game in the future. It was the home field of Paterson native Larry Doby, the first Black player to integrate the American League.
“This opportunity to pay tribute to the Negro Leagues as the Giants and Cardinals play a regular season game at this iconic location is a great honor,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “The legacy of the Negro Leagues and its greatest living player, Willie Mays, is one of excellence and perseverance. We look forward to sharing the stories of the Negro Leagues throughout this event next year.”
The Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues played their home games at Rickwood Field from 1924-1960, with Mays starting his career with the Barons in 1948. Some of the greatest players to grace the sport played games at Rickwood Field, including Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Doby, Monte Irvin, Ernie Banks, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Buck Leonard, Rube Foster, Roberto Clemente, Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider and Honus Wagner.
Rickwood Field, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was also the site of the last Negro League World Series game in October 1948.
“To connect our past with the present is so important to our organization and going to such a historic and iconic place as Rickwood Field will allow us to do just that,” Giants president Larry Baer said in a statement, “while also connecting with fans and communities outside of our regular Major League cities.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Birmingham’s historic Rickwood Field to host MLB game in June 2024
Source: Yahoo Sports