Birmingham’s beloved Rickwood Field

Birmingham Barons
Birmingham Barons
Photo from the Birmingham Public Library

This weekend, the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC)  published a passionate op-ed by Associated Press Sports Columnist Paul Newberry calling on baseball fans across the nation to save history – save Birmingham’s beloved Rickwood Field.

The oldest professional baseball ballpark in America, Rickwood Field was closed in April for repairs, prompting the Birmingham Barons to move this year’s 22nd Annual Rickwood Classic away from the event’s namesake.

Along with Newberry’s column, this past week baseball’s “bible” Baseball America magazine has also documented Rickwood Field’s plight.

To date, the city of Birmingham has budgeted $450,000 in bond funds to address current repairs, but long term support is needed.

A Birmingham treasure

Since its opening in 1910, more than 100 Hall of Famers have played at Rickwood including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. It is also one of only two original Negro League home fields left standing.

Today’s major league ballparks from Rickwood’s era such as Wrigley Field have incorporated new jumbo-tron video screens and experienced huge “makeovers” to their ballparks.

Birmingham Alabama
Wrigley Field’s new video screen – photo by Pat Byington

Frozen in time, Rickwood Field is one of the last remaining ballparks that looks like the grounds that Ruth, Mays and Aaron shagged fly balls and hit towering home runs.

The Friends of Rickwood Field – Go Fund Me Campaign launched

Back in 1992, The Friends of Rickwood Field saved the venerable ballpark from the wrecking ball.  This past month, they launched a Go Fund Me page campaign to support repair efforts.

From the Go Fund Me page:

“We have raised and invested over $2 million to preserve, maintain, and market Rickwood as America’s Oldest Baseball Park, a Ruthian effort, considering we only have two employees and an all-volunteer board. The unique public-private partnership we have enjoyed with the City has quite frankly given Rickwood an entire extra generation of life as a working museum, and it is certainly our hope we can preserve the park for the next generation,” stated Gerald Watkins, Chairman of the Friends organization.

Will Rickwood Field’s new found national attention be a turning point for this Birmingham treasure?  Will the Magic City step forward and support America’s oldest professional ballpark?

Learn more about The Friends of Rickwood Field. Join the cause. Help save history.

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama’s Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama’s cancer risk and mercury standards.