Hidden History: Rickwood Field

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There are many historic baseball stadiums across the country, including one in Birmingham, Alabama.

A monument to America’s game that stands the test of time.

“There’s nothing else like it left; everything else has gone by the wayside,” says Clarence Watkins, Rickwood Field Curator.

Before the Grey Lady broke ground and the vines climbed the walls of Wrigley, there was Rickwood Field.

“Somehow or another Rickwood field has managed to survive,” says Clarence Watkins.

In the early days of Birmingham’s steel industry, industrial titan Rick Woodward built a state of the art ballpark in the shadows of the Birmingham Steel Mills. Over a century later, Rickwood Field stands, America’s oldest ballpark.

“Was he baseball crazy or was he a good business man and the answer was he was both,” says Watkins.

In baseball’s early days, it was the home of Birmingham baseball.

“Minor leagues have been here forever this is the oldest ballpark in the country and I was lucky enough to play here for two years,” says Rollie Fingers.

The barons saw future major league stars pass through their gates on the way to the show and it was the home of the Birmingham Black Barons, the juggernaut of negro league baseball in the South.

“There’s a lot of local people who grew up here going to games with their dad and their granddad, and so they have an emotional attachment to the park,” says Clarence Watkins.

Through its history close to 200 Major League Baseball Hall of Famers have played a game at Rickwood Field; names like Wagner, Cobb, Paige–and yes–even the Babe.

“It’s become a bucket list item for a lot of true baseball fans nationally,” says Clarence Watkins.

Hidden History, a celebration of black history, is sponsored by Missouri Southern State University.

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