Rickwood Field was built in the west side of Birmingham in 1910 – in the area near what is now referred to as Ensley – to house the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro League. Its 104 years of age apparently makes it the oldest surviving pro baseball park in America. How lucky are we to have this facility right here in our corner of the world? Answer: very.
Here’s a vintage photo of a game on Rickwood Field from back in 1929 (click on the image to get a full-blown picture):
The annual Rickwood Classic takes place in the middle of the summer baseball season, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day. Today, in fact.
I have been to the Rickwood Classic twice. Both times, it was a humid, sticky, early Summer day. I sweated a lot, as did everyone around me. Hence, no one noticed. The members of the crowd that couldn’t stand the direct sun were bunched up under the little bit of shade beneath the park’s awnings, fanning themselves. I can only imagine what the regular ballgame attendees of the ’20s and ’30s felt like within their woolen suits and multiple layers of clothing.
The players on the current-day Birmingham Barons team and the Minor League team that plays against them in this one-day event wear uniforms modeled after the designs of a given year. This year, the event commemorates the “Roaring Twenties.” The place turns into a time capsule of pin-striped baseball uniforms and a sea of spectators dotted with wide-brimmed straw hats and floppy headdresses. The small concessions stand even serves up helpings of slow-roasted Boston Butt. Mint julep, anyone?
On one of my prior trips to the Rickwood Classic, I won an auction bid on a 1960s-era Barons uniform. It’s hanging in my closet now, though I did wear it in 2007 as a Halloween costume to a Josh Ritter concert.