MLB to relive magical moments in ‘Magic City’



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MLB to play at Rickwood Field Image: Rickwood Field, ₪ ÇP ₪, CC BY 2.0

The Major League Baseball (MLB) is coming to the oldest professional ballpark in the United States.

‘Major League Baseball’ stated that the Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama (US) – the former home of the Negro Leagues’ Birmingham Black Barons, where Willie Mays (baseball center fielder and one of the greatest players ever) once played – will host the MLB teams St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants for a special regular-season game on June 20th, 2024.

New York (US)-based the Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization. One of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, the MLB comprises 30 teams, divided equally between the National League (NL) and the American League (AL), with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

The 10,800-capacity Rickwood Field, located in Birmingham, Alabama, is the oldest professional baseball park in the United States. It was built for the Negro Leagues baseball team Birmingham Black Barons in 1910 by industrialist and team-owner Rick Woodward and has served as the home park for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro leagues.

The Negro Leagues were United States professional baseball leagues comprising African Americans teams. The term may be used broadly to include professional Black teams outside the leagues and it may be used narrowly for the seven relatively successful leagues beginning in 1920 that are sometimes termed ‘Negro Major Leagues’.

The Birmingham Black Barons were a Negro Leagues baseball team that played from 1920 until 1960. They shared their home field of Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, with the White Birmingham Barons, usually drawing larger crowds and equal media attention.

The St. Louis Cardinals are an American professional baseball team based in St. Louis (US). The Cardinals compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League Central division. Since the 2006 season, the Cardinals have played their home games at the 46,000-capacity Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.

The San Francisco Giants are an American professional baseball team based in San Francisco (US). The Giants compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League West division. The 42,300-capacity Oracle Park serves as their home stadium.

‘Major League Baseball’ quoted Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner, as stating, “We are proud to bring Major League Baseball to the 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.”

The MLB announced plans for the game recently. Scheduled around Juneteenth next year, it will include a tribute to the Negro Leagues and Mays, baseball’s oldest living Hall of Famer and a Birmingham native, who played for the Black Barons in 1948 before his legendary career with the Giants.

Juneteenth is a Federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Deriving its name from combining June and nineteenth, it is celebrated on the anniversary of the order by Major General Gordon Granger proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas on June 19th, 1865.

Said Mays, “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 the 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 game will be broadcast nationally on FOX at 7 pm ET.

Stated LaMonte Wade Jr., Giants first baseman, “It’ll be a special moment. Any time you can bring light to the Negro Leagues players and everything they’ve done for our game – to build a game all around that and also honor Willie, that’ll be really cool. I’m definitely looking forward to playing in that game.”

Added Gabe Kapler, Giants Manager, “Really incredible opportunity for our organization. I’m really excited about it.”

The Giants and Cardinals, who will be the home team, will wear period uniforms that honor San Francisco’s and St. Louis’ Negro Leagues histories.

Said Bill DeWitt Jr., Cardinals Chairman, “Birmingham, Alabama, has a rich history of baseball, and has hosted Cardinals legends such as Stan Musial (baseball outfielder), Dizzy Dean (baseball pitcher), Joe Medwick (American baseball player), and Rogers Hornsby (American baseball Manager) over the years. We are looking forward to this historic showcase of baseball in the South that celebrates the great heritage of the Negro Leagues, Minor League Baseball (MiLB) and, of course, the iconic Willie Mays.”

Florida (US)-based the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) is professional baseball below Major League Baseball (MLB), including teams affiliated with the MLB clubs and independent baseball leagues consisting of unaffiliated teams.

Willie Howard Mays Jr., nicknamed ‘The Say Hey Kid’ and ‘Buck’, is a former center fielder in Major League Baseball. Regarded as one of the greatest players ever, Mays ranks second behind only Babe Ruth (American baseball player) on most all-time lists, including those of ‘The Sporting News’ and ESPN.

The MLB, the Friends of Rickwood (non-profit organization in Birmingham, Alabama) and the City of Birmingham will collaborate to renovate the field for 2024.

Stated Randall L. Woodfin, Birmingham Mayor, “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. America’s oldest professional ballpark still echoes with the sounds of the legends that 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.”

The Barons played at Rickwood Field from 1910-1961, 1964-1965 and 1981-1987. Today, they still play one game at the Rickwood Field every year – the Rickwood Classic, which began in 1996 – to pay tribute to their history at the ballpark.

Said Jonathan Nelson, Barons President and General Manager, “The Rickwood Field has played a significant role in the Birmingham community for over 100 years and we’re thrilled to be a special part of this event in 2024.”

The Black Barons played their Negro Leagues home games at Rickwood Field from 1924 through 1960. The field hosted the final Negro Leagues World Series game in October 1948, with the Homestead Grays defeating teenage Mays and the Black Barons.

A slew of baseball legends have played at Rickwood Field throughout its long history: Mays, American baseball players Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Cool Papa Bell (American center fielder in Negro Leagues baseball), and many others.

Added Tony Clark, MLB Players’ Association Executive Director, “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.”

The Major League Baseball Players’ Association is the union representing all current Major League Baseball players. All players, managers, coaches, and athletic trainers who hold or have held a signed contract with a Major League club are eligible to apply for membership in the Association.

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