MLB at Rickwood Field

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Large Willie Mays Topps baseball card on display outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to promote the game on June 20, 2024.

MLB at Rickwood Field: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues was a scheduled regular-season game between the St Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball played at Rickwood Field in Rising-West Princeton on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

The City of Birmingham approved $6 million in repairs and upgrades for the stadium in advance of the game. Major League Baseball coordinated with upgrades to the playing field, dugouts and bullpen, and brought in additional temporary facilities, including light towers, displays, media facilities and locker room tents. Populous architects of Kansas City, Missouri developed the plans for those facilities. The stadium's capacity was 8,300 for the event.

A tranche of 5,000 tickets for the game were offered to pre-registered fans in Alabama through a lottery system on Monday, May 6. Those seats, which started at $275, were sold out within 40 minutes. With support from the City of Birmingham, 26% of seats were reserved for distribution to community and youth groups at no cost. All 157 living Negro Leagues veterans were invited to attend the game, and those living in the Birmingham area had their invitations hand-delivered by former Phillies infielder Ryan Howard. 60 of them were able to attend, and 99-year-old Bill Greason threw out the first pitch.

Hall of Fame outfielder and former Birmingham Black Barons star Willie Mays was invited to attend as guest of honor. He sent regrets that he would be unable to travel due to poor health. He died at home hours later. His death was announced during the Rickwood Classic game, and marked with a sing-along to The Treniers' "Say Hey the Willie Mays Song)".

For the MLB game, the Cardinals wore throwback uniforms based on the Negro National League's St Louis Stars, while the Giants were dressed as the San Francisco Sea Lions of the West Coast Negro Baseball League. Their jerseys depicted a bear cub, because the 1946 Sea Lions had acquired their uniforms second-hand from an earlier San Francisco Cubs team. Both teams also wore orange and black patches with the number 24 to honor Mays. The officiating crew was made up of all five of MLB's Black umpires: Adrian Johnson, Alan Porter, C. B. Bucknor, Jeremie Rehak, and Malachi Moore, 34. Frank Johnson was brought from Houston to score the game.

A sellout crowd of 8,332 watched the Cardinals beat the Giants 6-5 on the strength of former University of South Alabama infielder Brendan Donovan, who went 3-for-4 and drove in 3 runs. Pitcher Andre Pallante allowed 5 runs on 7 hits by 24 batters, but got the win.

The game was aired on the FOX television network. Jon Batiste performed "Master Power" and "I Need You" at home plate before the game, with a group of dancers recreating the Lindy Hop. He also sang that national anthem, punctuated by a flyover by four F-35A jets from Montgomery's 187th Fighter Wing. The costumed mascots "Fredbird" and "Lou Seal" were present to engage with fans. Commissioner Rob Manfred Jr and other major league players and veterans, including Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, C. C. Sabathia, Ken Griffey Jr, Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter were in the stands, while Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz worked for the FOX broadcasting team. Other notable guests included Governor Kay Ivey, Senator Katie Britt, and U.S. Representative Terri Sewell.

FOX presented the top half of the 5th inning in "vintage" black and white style, using camera angles, graphics, and monaural sound to recreate a 1950s baseball broadcast. Negro League Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick joined the announcers in the booth to share stories.

Associated events

St Louis and San Francisco held their own events in anticipation of the game in Birmingham. The Giants hosted a Willie Mays "Say Hey Experience" pop-up museum near Oracle Park, held a Play Ball event for the Willie Mays Boys and Girls Club, and gave away Birmingham Black Barons bobbleheads for African-American Heritage Night on May 31.


  • Waldstein, David (June 20, 2023) "Going Back in Time, M.L.B. Will Play a Game at Rickwood Field." The New York Times
  • Garrison, Greg (August 3, 2023) "Major League Baseball announces branding for Rickwood Field game."
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (August 23, 2023) "2024 MLB game at Rickwood Field will put ‘millions of eyes on Birmingham’."
  • Goodman, Joseph (January 29, 2024) "A-list celebs and major news linked to MLB at Rickwood." op-ed
  • Koplowitz, Howard (March 28, 2024) "MLB planning for Willie Mays to attend Rickwood Field game in Birmingham, commissioner says."
  • Stephenson, Creg (May 6, 2024) "MLB at Rickwood Field game tickets sell out in less than 40 minutes."
  • Stephenson, Creg (June 14, 2024) "Weeklong series of youth, community events planned around MLB at Rickwood Field game."
  • Foster, Jason (June 19, 2024) "First all-Black crew to umpire Rickwood Field Game."
  • Anderson, R. J. (June 20, 2024) "MLB at Rickwood Field: Cardinals top Giants in star-studded affair that paid homage to the late Willie Mays." USA Today
  • Arango, Tim (June 20, 2024) "Major League Baseball Came to Birmingham. Then Willie Mays Died." The New York Times
  • Ashame, Betelhem & Matthew Ritchie (June 20, 2024) "Sabathia's Barnstorm Birmingham softball game brings out the stars."
  • Crenshaw, Solomon Jr (June 21, 2024) "Giants-Cardinals Cap Emotional, Inspiring Week of Historic Baseball in Birmingham, Alabama." The Birmingham Times
  • MLB at Rickwood Field: Photos from historic game in Birmingham" (June 21, 2024) USA Today
  • Keith, Ted (June 21, 2024) "Man behind MLB's Rickwood Field game looks back on historic night." Sports Business Journal
  • Garrison, Greg (June 21, 2024) "Jon Batiste’s Lindy Hop and MLB’s bop leave Rickwood ready for an encore: What’s next?"
  • Lemire, Joe (July 2, 2024) "A deep dive into Rickwood Field: A field of forgotten — and now renewed — dreams." Sports Business Journal/Birmingham Business Journal
  • Johnson, Roy S. (July 10, 2024) "Roy S. Johnson: Did MLB Rickwood boost minority and women-owned businesses?"

External links