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Rickwood Field MLB ticket information released

Rickwood Field

Tickets for the MLB at Rickwood Field, A Tribute to the Negro Leagues event at Birmingham’s historic venue will be sold exclusively to Alabama residents, with recipients determined by a lottery now open to the public.

The June 20 match will feature the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in the first-ever MLB game played at Historic Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the United States. Attending a game at the venerable venue should certainly be on the bucket list of any devoted baseball fan; over the years we attended a few Rickwood Classics, and they were always memorable. Working off plans provided by Connie Mack, A.H. “Rick” Woodward built a new concrete-and-steel ballpark for his MiLB Birmingham Barons, and on Aug. 18, 1910 the city heralded its opening. As Mark McCarter wrote in his history of the Southern League, Never a Bad Game: Fifty-Plus Years of the Southern League, regarding that initial Montgomery/Birmingham game:

On Aug. 18, 1910, every major business in Birmingham shut down. Places like West Clothing Company on North 20th Street, which advertised its $18, $20, and $25 men’s wool suits for the drastic discount of $7.95, $9.95 and $11.95. The Birmingham News suggested that visiting team officials “will see sights never before presented in the Southern League, and which will never again be equaled.”

What headlines proclaimed was a “model of beauty and convenience (that) causes a dawn of new and brilliant baseball” even inspired poetry from the newspaper’s Walter Harper:

“The sun was soft as woman’s smiles;
The air as crisp as new spring styles
And peace lay on the land for miles
Through all the vital forenoon
But Rickwood saw another sight
When the fan howled to see the fight
And crowded center, left and right,
On the grandstand and bleacher”

The 10,000-plus crowd of that opening day saw the Barons beat Montgomery 3-2. Rickwood continued to draw massive crowds through the years. They drew more than 160,000 eight seasons in the 1920s. There were 20,074 fans there the night Ray Caldwell outdueled Dizzy Dean in 1931 in the Dixie Series. Alas, success couldn’t be maintained consistently. Woodward, battered by the Great Depression, had to sell the team in 1938. Pro baseball disappeared in 1962-63, returned in ’64 for the new Southern League, left for Mobile after two years, then came back in 1967 under Charles O. Finley’s leadership before moving to Chattanooga in 1976.

The Finley ownership era, by the way, was a fascinating time–after all, what Charlie Finley era wasn’t?–both in terms of race relations and the development of future Oakland A’s stars like Reggie Jackson, and McCarter tells tales of the Barons, the future A’s and Rickwood Field in his book.

The ballpark also ended up being an important site in Negro Leagues history, as the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues called Rickwood Field home from 1924 through 1960. The theme for this year’s event is the legacy of Negro Leagues players, including former Birmingham Black Baron and Hall of Famer Willie Mays. As a teenager, Mays began his professional career with the Black Barons in 1948 before debuting with the New York Giants in 1951. Rickwood Field was also the site of the final Negro League World Series game in October 1948, which saw Mays’ Black Barons falling to the Homestead Grays in five games.

As noted, tickets will be exclusive to residents within the state of Alabama, as determined by local zip codes. Residents can begin registering for the chance to purchase ticket here. (Not unprecedented; MLB limited access to Field of Dreams games to Iowa residents.) The registration process for this special ticket lottery closes on Tuesday, April 30.

According to an MLB press release, Major League Baseball and the City of Birmingham will be making 26 percent of the approximate 8,300 seated tickets at Rickwood Field available to community- or youth-based organizations in Birmingham at no cost.

We attended several Rickwood Classics games over the years, so it’s good to see the festivities also include an MiLB game (interestingly, not dubbed a Rickwood Classic game) featuring the Montgomery Biscuits and the Birmingham Barons on Tuesday, June 18. The teams will honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues by playing as the Montgomery Gray Sox and Birmingham Black Barons, respectively. Pre-sale tickets for season ticket holders of both the Barons and Biscuits will begin on Wednesday, April 17, while general public tickets will be available for purchase on Tuesday, April 23. Tickets can be purchased here.

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