Birmingham Black Barons & Negro Southern League mark 100th birthday

The Birmingham Black Barons in the 1940s. Photo via John W. Mosley, property of Temple University Library Digital Collection

Due to COVID-19, almost all sporting events have been canceled. However, that doesn’t mean we have to stop celebrating sports. 2020 marks the 100th birthday of both the Birmingham Black Barons and the Negro Southern League of baseball—here are some fun facts!

Negro Southern League

Created in 1920, the The Negro Southern League was a baseball minor league with more than 80 participating teams throughout the South, including the Birmingham Black Barons. From 1920 until its disbandment in 1951, the Negro Southern League helped funnel many great black baseball players into the Negro American League and the Negro National League.

Formed in 2015, the Negro Southern League Museum is one of the newest museums in Birmingham. The museum focuses on presenting the impact of African-Americans on the history of baseball.

Birmingham Black Barons

In 1920, the Birmingham Stars formed as one of the eight original teams in the Negro Southern League. Once the team joined the Negro National League that same year, they became the Black Barons—a reference to Birmingham’s white team, the Birmingham Barons.

During the heyday of the Black Barons in the 1920s, several star players’ careers would lead them to their induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For example, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, considered to be one of the best pitchers in baseball history, and George “Mules” Suttles, who hit 127 home runs throughout his career.

As baseball became integrated in the 1940s and 1950s, the Birmingham Black Barons gradually declined. Finally, the Black Barons played their last game in 1960.

Hall of Famers:

  • Satchel Paige; Inducted 1971
  • Willie Mays; Inducted 1979
  • Mule Suttles; Inducted 1996
  • Willie Foster; Inducted 1996
  • Willie Wells; Inducted 1997

Rickwood Field

Rickwood Field, America’s oldest baseball park. Photo via Rickwood Field on Facebook

In the early 1900s, a young industrialist named Rick Woodward set about creating a minor league ballpark in Birmingham, the fastest-growing city in the nation at the time. On August 18, 1910, the entire city of Birmingham closed down in honor of the park’s opening.

Now, 110 years later, Rickwood Field stands as the oldest surviving professional baseball field in the United States. Although originally built for the Birmingham Barons, the Black Barons soon called Rickwood Field home. Eventually, the Black Barons and Rickwood would become nearly synonymous.

Nowadays, Rickwood Field is mostly used as a tourist attraction. In fact, several baseball movies—such as “Cobb” (1994), “Soul of the Game” (1995) and “42” (2012)—had scenes filmed at Rickwood.

However, the annual Rickwood Classic features a “throwback” game where both teams wear period uniforms and honors an era in Birmingham’s baseball history. Unfortunately, this year’s Rickwood Classic has been canceled due to COVID-19.

Click these links to learn more about the Birmingham Black Barons, the Negro Southern League & Rickwood Field.

  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.