Batter’s up, Birmingham. Baseball season is right around the corner, and with the Birmingham City Council approving emergency repairs to historic Rickwood Field, we’re feeling nostalgic. Take a trip down Memory Lane with us as we remember some of Birmingham’s most famous baseball players.
Bruce “Eggs Benedict” grew up in Birmingham, playing baseball all throughout his childhood. He went on to play college baseball in Nebraska, and in 1976 was drafted by the Atlanta Braves.
On his 23rd birthday, August 18th, 1978, Bruce made his major league debut, starting as catcher for the Braves. He would go on to play for the Braves for 12 seasons, before retiring. Since, he has served as a manager and scout for various major-league teams. He currently is a NCAA Division I basketball official, runs the Bruce Benedict Baseball Academy, and is a scout for the Chicago White Sox.
Emory “Bubba” Church was a standout on West End High School’s baseball team. He went on to play college ball at Louisiana State University. He served the United States Air Force during World War II. After returning home, he was a starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago Cubs. An injury brought his career to an end in 1955, after only 5 years in the league.
Bubba Church died in his Birmingham home on September 17th, 2001.
Jackson is a graduate of Wenonah High School. After graduation, he was selected by the California Angels in the 1971 Amateur Draft. He made his major league debut on September 12, 1975, playing for the Angels. He went on to play with the Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, and Detroit Tigers.
After retiring, Jackson became a coach for several teams across the country. Currently, he is a guest hitting instructor for the New York Baseball Academy and coached Birmingham’s Willie Mays Youth Baseball to a victory in the 2014 Junior RBI Classic.
The Hairston Dynasty
Birmingham produced the Hairston family, which saw 5 players go on to play in the MLB.
Sam Hairston was born in Carwford, Mississippi, but spent most of his life in Birmingham. He played in the Negro Leagues for the Birmingham Black Barons and the Indianapolis Clowns before playing with the Chicago White Sox for one season. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.
Sam had two sons: Johnny and Jerry.
Johnny played baseball at Hooper High School and went on to play in the 1969 season with the Chicago Cubs.
Jerry is the more famous of the two. He went to Gardendale High School. He went on to play 14 seasons with in the Major Leagues, mostly with the Chicago White Sox and one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jerry is the father of Jerry, Jr. and Scott Hairston, both of whom went on to play in the MLB.
Jerry, Jr. played 16 seasons with various MLB teams, including Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Los Angeles Dodgers (whew!). He was on the 2009 World Series winning Yankees team.
Scott Hairston played for the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals.
The Hairston family is one of only 3 families to have had 3 generations of MLB players.
Do you have a favorite Birmingham baseball player? Let us know!