America’s Oldest Professional Ballpark to Host Special Regular Season Game in Tribute to The Negro Leagues and Its Greatest Living Player, Birmingham Native, Willie Mays; On Tuesday, June 18th, Rickwood Also Will Host Minor League Contest Between the Birmingham Barons and Montgomery Biscuits
MLB Press Release
June 20, 2023 — Major League Baseball today announced that Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the United States and former home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues, will be the site of a special Regular Season contest between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants on June 20, 2024. This experience, scheduled around Juneteenth next year, 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. FOX will provide exclusive national coverage of the game between the Cardinals and Giants on Thursday, June 20, 2024, airing at 7:00 p.m. (ET)/6:00 p.m. (CT).
“We are proud to bring Major League Baseball to historic Rickwood Field in 2024,” said Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. “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.”
“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,” said Willie Mays.
“Preserving the legacy of the Negro Leagues is vital to growing baseball’s diversity and popularity,” said MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark. “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.’’
MLB will collaborate with the Friends of Rickwood and City of Birmingham to renovate Rickwood Field for 2024, transforming the National Historic Site in order to host a Major League 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 organization’s history there. Additional activities surrounding the games at Rickwood Field will be announced at a later date.
The Major League contest will be a home game 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.
The history of Rickwood Field is unmatched, with some of the game’s greatest players stepping foot on its hallowed grounds. These players included Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Cool Papa Bell, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Oscar Charleston, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Rube Foster, Lou Gehrig, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, Reggie Jackson, Buck Leonard, Biz Mackey, Mickey Mantle, Connie Morgan, Stan Musial, Satchel Paige, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Duke Snider, Toni Stone, Cristobal Torriente, Honus Wagner, Willie Wells, and so much more. Rickwood Field is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues called Rickwood Field home from 1924 through 1960. As a teenager, Mays began his professional career with the Black Barons in 1948. He played with them before beginning his legendary 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.