Major League Baseball unveiled the official logo and name Thursday for the first MLB game at the oldest professional baseball park in the United States: MLB at Rickwood Field A Tribute to The Negro Leagues.
Rickwood Field was built in 1910 and is known for being a historic park that housed famous Negro League players, and the show is finally coming to Birmingham, Alabama.
On June 20, 2024, the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants will face off at the illustrious field.
“We can’t wait to welcome the Cardinals, the Giants, as well as the entire world to Birmingham,” Mayor Randall Woodfin said during Thursday’s announcement.
The Major League game will be prefaced with a Minor League game between the Birmingham Barons and the Montgomery Biscuits, scheduled for June 18, 2024. Renovations will begin on October 23 to prepare the stadium relic for an unforgettable week.
“This is a seminal moment in Negro Leagues and Black baseball history to have Major League baseball come to Birmingham to Rickwood Field where so much baseball history was made,” President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Bob Kendrick said.
“When we literally throw this back in time, this is going to be a watershed moment for Negro Leagues history.”
The Barons played in the Southern Association until 1961. The stadium also served as the home of the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro Leagues between 1924 and 1960.
“We are proud to bring Major League Baseball to historic Rickwood Field in 2024,” said Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. in a statement. “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 patrolled center field for the Barons at just 17 years old before making his debut in the Majors at 20 on May 25, 1951, with the New York Giants. He went on to become one of the best all-around players in the Majors. He won 12 Gold Glove Awards, hit 660 home runs, is a member of the 3,000-hit club, won a batting title, four home run titles, and four stolen base titles. He ranks among the all-time leaders in Wins Above Replacement, and he missed two full seasons during the prime of his career while serving in the military.
The unveiling was a spectacle with history buffs and former players and MLBbros like, MVP Ryan Howard, Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia, All-Star Randy Winn, current MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds, who emceed the event, and Ron “Papa Jack” Jackson in attendance for the news. The former athletes took time to speak on the meaningfulness of the game.
“The Negro Leagues was so important to the history of this ballgame,” Winn said. We have to focus on the history of this game. This game was built on the backs of the people that played this game before us. … I didn’t play one out, one pitch here in the Negro Leagues, but that’s my beginning.”
The stands are expected to be brimming with passionate Black and brown fans, eager to immerse themselves in the wisdom and legacy encapsulated within the hallowed grounds of Rickwood Field.
However, as the historic event unfolds, there remains a concern over the lack of representation of MLBbros on the playing field, which could cast a shadow over the festivities.
Both the Giants and the Cardinals currently house just one MLBbro each, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Jordan Walker, respectively.
To truly capture the essence of this experience, it becomes crucial for these teams to make strides in adding more African-American players to their rosters. Doing so would not only enrich the atmosphere but also pay homage to the profound impact the Negro League athletes had on Rickwood Field.