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MLB to stage regular season game at historic Rickwood Field

Featured image credit: Rickwood Field

Major League Baseball (MLB) has announced that the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants will play a regular season game next year at Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the United States.

Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Rickwood Field opened in 1910 and was home to Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues from 1924 to 1960. The 10,800-seat stadium is now designated a National Historic Site, with MLB set to collaborate with the Friends of Rickwood and City of Birmingham to renovate the facility for 2024, transforming Rickwood Field in order to host a major league game.

The game will take place on June 20, 2024, and will be a home contest for the Cardinals. On-field personnel for both teams will wear period uniforms highlighting the Negro Leagues histories of both St. Louis and San Francisco.

MLB said the experience, scheduled around the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in Texas in 1865, will include a variety of activities as a tribute to the Negro Leagues and its greatest living player – Hall of Famer, Giants legend, Birmingham native and Birmingham Black Barons player Willie Mays. 

As a teenager, Mays began his professional career with the Black Barons in 1948. He played with them before beginning his MLB career as a member of the New York Giants in 1951. Rickwood Field was the site of the final Negro League World Series game in October 1948, which saw Mays’ Black Barons falling to the Homestead Grays in five games.

MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, said: “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 honour.

“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.” 

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), added: “Preserving the legacy of the Negro Leagues is vital to growing baseball’s diversity and popularity.

“Willie Mays, like so many other Negro Leaguers, broke down barriers and paved the way for those of us who dreamt of playing baseball at the highest level. This event helps to link the past, present and future and helps further the cause of attracting a new generation of players to our game.’’ 

Additionally, Rickwood Field will host a Minor League contest between the Birmingham Barons and the Montgomery Biscuits on June 18, 2024.  The Barons called Rickwood Field home during three different time periods (1910-1961, 1964-1965, 1981-1987). Each year, the Barons play one game at Rickwood Field in tribute to the organisation’s history there.