America’s Oldest Ballpark

Older ballparks are hidden treasure, a Cliché, but true, a time capsule to this country’s history. Too often, they are at risk of demolition to give way for new development. In this case, Rickwood Field is in the shadows of downtown Birmingham, away from any risk of that. Birmingham Barons, a White Sox Double A Affiliate, is still in town. As of April 10, 2013, they play at Regions Park, a state of the art 8500 seat capacity Minor League facility, just 3.5 miles away. City of Birmingham owns Rickwood Field. Friends of Rickwood Field, a private group of 40 board members, have done an amazing job of conserving this place.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rickwood Field opened in 1910, the oldest surviving professional baseball park in the United States. Many Baseball Legends have played here at one time or another. Willie Mays played here as a teenager with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues, just before he signed with the New York Giants. Babe Ruth among other Baseball greats barnstormed here. The Dixie Series of the Southern Association was played here. Between 1911-1920 The Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates held their Spring Training here. Seemed easier to walk in than to walk out, kept finding myself frozen in place. If you look around long enough, you can feel the years wearing on the grandstands.

The book “Rickwood Field : A Century in America’s Oldest Ballpark,” written by Allen Barra, chronicles the stories here. In a sense, its a time capsule depicting a Century in America, a great resource to the rich history and its place in the game. The park is still here for other generations to appreciate.

Allen Barra describes Rickwood Field as a place where Ku Klux Klan once held rallies and is now a symbol of hope and triumph. Some of the Legends who played here were Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays.

Design and construction is very similar to Forbes Field. Local Industrialist Rick Woodward built it with the help of Major League Baseball owners Connie Mack and Barney Dreyfuss. Once a year, the Birmingham Barons vacate their home at the New Regions Field to play in the Rickwood Classic, a turn-back-the-clock game, wearing throw back unifroms with one of their Southern League foes. Throughout the year high schools and colleges also host tournaments on this field.

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