Historic Structures

Rickwood Field, Birmingham Alabama

Date added: June 2, 2016 Categories: Alabama Stadium

Erected in 1910, the original concrete and steel grandstand at Rickwood Field is the oldest baseball grandstand on the same site in the United States. The grandstand forms the core of an historic ballpark which includes a 1928 Mission style entryway and other subsequent additions. Modeled after Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, Rickwood is one of the few grandstands which remain as a testament to the now classic early twentieth century style of ballpark construction. The stadium was built by local industrialist A.H. "Rick" Woodward, III for his Birmingham Barons baseball club, and was also home to the Birmingham Black Barons, and the Oakland A's farm teams. As a center for leisure-time activity, the field was an important social and cultural institution in this southern industrial city from the 1910s through the 1970s.

Playing in the Southern Association and later the Southern League, Birmingham's Minor League franchises won nine pennants during their tenure at Rickwood Field. Each era produced its own memorable games and favorite players for the community at large. Rickwood Field holds a place in the heart for the baseball buff and casual fan alike.

In 1920 the Birmingham Black Barons began playing in the Negro Leagues and Rickwood rapidly became the jewel of southern Black baseball. The field served as a central gathering place for Birmingham's Black community as they watched stars like Mules Suttles, Satchel Paige, and Willie Mays fine tune the skills that would launch them into stardom. The Black Barons reached the Negro League World Series three times in the 1940s and continued playing at Rickwood - alternating field time with the (white) Barons - until 1963.

Like all social institutions in Birmingham prior to 1964 Rickwood remained racially segregated in the stands and on the field. The Barons continued to attract large crowds before folding their club in the face of integration prior to the 1962 season. Integrated professional baseball resumed at Rickwood in 1964 and continued off and on through 1987 when the Birmingham Barons moved to a suburban location.

In the 1920s facilities at Rickwood were enlarged with major additions to the grandstand and the construction of a new entryway, as well as the erection of a drop-in scoreboard in left field (no longer extant). Light towers were added in 1936, and in the 1940s new fences were built in the outfield reducing Rickwood's mammoth dimensions and allowing more homeruns. Though no longer home to professional baseball, Rickwood is used by the public schools and recreational leagues for baseball games.