Major League Baseball has announced that Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the United States and former home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues, will host a regular season game next year between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants on June 20, 2024.
The contest is scheduled around the Juneteenth holiday and will feature a variety of activities, including a tribute to the Negro Leagues and its greatest living player — Hall of Famer, Giants legend, Birmingham native and Birmingham Black Barons player Willie Mays. The contest will be a home game for the Cardinals. On-field personnel for both teams will wear throwback uniforms highlighting the Negro Leagues histories of both St. Louis and San Francisco. Fox will provide coverage of the game.
“I never thought I’d see in my lifetime a Major League Baseball game being played on the very field where I played baseball as a teenager,” Mays said. “It has been 75 years since I played for the Birmingham Black Barons at Rickwood Field, and to learn that my Giants and the Cardinals will play a game there and honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and all those who came before them is really emotional for me. We can’t forget what got us here and that was the Negro Leagues for so many of us.”
MLB will collaborate with the Friends of Rickwood and city of Birmingham to renovate Rickwood Field for 2024, transforming the National Historic Site in order to host the game. Additionally, Rickwood Field will host a Minor League contest between the Birmingham Barons and the Montgomery Biscuits on June 18, 2024. The Barons called Rickwood Field home during three different time periods (1910–1961, 1964–1965, 1981–1987). Each year, the Barons play one game at Rickwood Field in tribute to the organization’s history there.
“We are proud to bring Major League Baseball to historic Rickwood Field in 2024,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “This opportunity to pay tribute to the Negro Leagues as the Giants and Cardinals play a regular season game at this iconic location is a great honor. The legacy of the Negro Leagues and its greatest living player, Willie Mays, is one of excellence and perseverance. We look forward to sharing the stories of the Negro Leagues throughout this event next year.”
The Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues called Rickwood Field home from 1924 through 1960. As a teenager, Mays began his professional career with the Black Barons in 1948. He played with them before beginning his legendary MLB career as a member of the New York Giants in 1951. Rickwood Field was 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. Players who have competed at Rickwood Field include Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and many more.
“Preserving the legacy of the Negro Leagues is vital to growing baseball’s diversity and popularity,” said MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark. “Willie Mays, like so many other Negro Leaguers, broke down barriers and paved the way for those of us who dreamt of playing baseball at the highest level. This event helps to link the past, present and future and helps further the cause of attracting a new generation of players to our game.’’