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Historic stadium Rickwood Field set to make MLB return

The historic Rickwood Field
Major League ball is returning to the historic Rickwood Field

Rickwood Field, 2007” by Max Wolfe is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

One of the oldest ballparks in the United States is back in commission after Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals will play a 2024 game at Rickwood Field, Alabama.

The ground was originally built in 1910 for use by the Birmingham Barons, a Minor League team who play in the Southern League and are an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The team’s all-black team, the Birmingham Black Barons, also played at Rickwood and often attracted larger crowds than their white counterparts.

The Barons left Rickwood in 1987, when they moved to the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Another move – this time to Regions Field in downtown Birmingham – followed in 2012.

The team occasionally plays exhibition matches at Rickwood and the ground also hosts nearby Miles College’s baseball games and those for Birmingham City High Schools.

Arguably Rickwood’s most important role, however, is as a baseball history museum. Community groups have been working hard in recent years to restore the venue and bring it up to spec so its proper place in history can be honoured.

Why is MLB returning to Rickwood Field?

The ground itself is a hugely important part of baseball history, but there are other reasons for MLB’s return to Rickwood. The first is social. The game will take place on June 20th next year so it ties into Juneteeth, a national holiday that was formed in 2021 to mark the emancipation of African-American slaves. 

The second is that it provides the league with the opportunity to recognise one of the sport’s greats: Willie Mays. The oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Mays played for the Black Barons in 1948, before going on to star for the Giants (both when they were located in New York and San Francisco) between 1951 and 1972. 

He ended his career with the New York Mets before moving into management with the team.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “We are proud to bring Major League Baseball to historic Rickwood Field in 2024. 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. 

“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.”

Mays said: “I can’t believe it. 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.”

The Rickwood tie will replace the traditional Field of Dreams game in the summer schedule, though the Iowa-based match-up is likely to return in 2025.

Written and distributed by Chat T Sports.

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