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Happy Birthday Rickwood! – the oldest standing baseball stadium in the nation

RICKWOOD FIELD – THE OLDEST STANDING BASEBALL STADIUM IN THE NATION HAS A BIRTHDAY ON AUGUST 18TH

Thanks to A. H. “Rick” Woodward, Birmingham, Alabama has the oldest standing baseball stadium anywhere. Woodward, a Birmingham industrialist, bought the controlling interest in the city’s professional baseball team, the Coal Barons. With the help of Connie Mack, he designed and built the “finest minor league ballpark ever” in the booming town of Birmingham.


Photo from The Birmingham News photo files at Birmingham Public Library

(Wayne Martin – 1985 article about Rickwood Field in The Birmingham News)

1914 opening game (The Birmingham News File Photos from Birmingham Library)

On opening day, August 18, 1910, the entire city of Birmingham was closed for business. The dedication game was against the Climbers of Montgomery.i “Montgomery scored in the top of the ninth to make it 2-1, then in the bottom of the inning, four Birmingham bunts made the Barons the winners, 3-2.”ii

Opening Day Rickwood Field – 1912 – Park is in foreground – Camera was east end of grandstand

(by O. V. Hunt – from William H. Brantley –  Samford University Library)Opening_Day_Rickwood_Field - O. V. Hunt, William Brantley collection at Samford University

View of playing field looking west (Library of Congress)

VIEW OF PLAYING FIELD WITH HOME PLATE TO CENTER, STANDS IN THE BACKGROUND AND DUGOUT IN THE FOREGROUND, LOOKING WEST

A little over 10,000 people turned out for the game and it was reported by The Birmingham News the Birmingham Electric street car company didn’t have enough cars to carry the fans. Since that day, “the gates have opened to millions of fans.”

Interior view of dugout (Library of Congress)

INTERIOR VIEW OF DUGOUT

Rickwood Field also hosted college football games. From 1912 to 1927, the Alabama Crimson Tide played its Birmingham home dates in Rickwood.

Interior of Press box

Interior view of press box

Rickwood was modeled after Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and in the early 1910s, it brought “standing-room-only crowds and future hall of famers to the field.

On Alternate weekends with the Barons, the Black Barons played and drew thousands who came to watch the Negro American League.

Birmingham Barons – Southern League of Champs 1906 news clipping (Birmingham Public Library)

Birmingham Barons - Southern League of Champs 1906

1946 Black Barons1946 Black Barons

Frequent visitors included Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson as well as George “Mule” Suttles, the all-time Negro American League home run record holder.

People wore coats and ties in 1952 – The Birmingham News photos at Birmingham Public Library

(Wayne Martin – 1985 article about Rickwood Field in The Birmingham News)

Coat and ties in 1952 (from Birmingham News)

Since 1992, Rickwood Field has been under the care of the Friends of Rickwood who are restoring the facility to its former glory. The organization plans to create a working museum for visitors to see and experience baseball as it once was. The original 1910 blueprints are being used to create a place that brings back memories.

Rickwood field photograph by Carol Highsmith March 2010

Rickwood field photograph by Carol Highsmith March 2010

Here is a great overhead view of Rickwood Field done by: www.SkyBama.com

iMartin, Wayne – Park that Rick Woodward built celebrates its 75th, Birmingham News August 15, 1985

iiMartin, Wayne – Park that Rick Woodward built celebrates its 75th, Birmingham News August 15, 1985

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40 comments

  1. Terry Lee

    Give it time Bham will figure out some reason to get rid of it to make room for a empty lot, like they did the race track.

  2. Jane Scoggins

    My dad played on this field

  3. David Daniel

    I love Rickwood Field and all.. but Bisbee, AZ has the oldest ballpark in the US.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Ballpark

    1. The only thing older than Rickwood about Warren Ballpark is the dirt. It was completely rebuilt in the 1930s. There are plenty of fields where ball has been played for more than a century, but Rickwood is the oldest professional ballpark standing.

    2. Alabama Pioneers

      Rickwood is the oldest professional stadium. I didn’t include the word professional in title because it would have been too long but it is in the article.

    3. David, Rickwood holds the designation as the oldest Professional baseball field in the country. As stated in your wiki link, the ballpark in Brisbee was built for recreational use. It’s nice that it is still around, but the history Rickwood Field carries is unmatched by any stadium not named Wrigley or Fenway. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Willie Mays (as a 17 year old) and many many more HOF’ers played on the very field as it stands today. The only difference is the outfield fence. The original outfield fence was a brick wall which gave it enormous dimensions. An outfield fence within that brick wall was added. The original grandstands and field layout have remained unchanged.

  4. Dick Badger

    @Terry. There is probably enough “ethnicity” associated with Rickwood that it’s safe. BIR was pretty much seen as about a bunch of redneck crackers to our city fathers once Arrington was elected in ’78, so bye bye racetrack. These are the same mental giants that replaced the beautiful old train station with a Butler building

    1. Keith Timmons

      Agree. These folks wrecked the grandeur of Birmingham and they wonder why people left.

    2. To be clear, the Terminal Station (all but unused by then) was torn down by the owners of the Southern Railroad (all white), in order to sell the property to Engel Real Estate (white). The City Council (8/9ths white), and Mayor George Seibels (white), had virtually nothing to do with it. (I say “virtually” because Seibels certainly had no objection with the Federal office plaza Engels was proposing to take its place, but the city wasn’t asked for permission as it was railroad property). The idea that the station’s demolition had anything to do with the Central City housing project (originally all white) or Red Mountain Expressway (white flight) is mistaken. It was Arrington’s suggestion, years later, to have the Expressway go through the already-cleared terminal site rather than mow down the projects.

  5. Cindy Padgett

    Been there many times!

  6. Tim Allison

    Played many football games the lol.Never played baseball.

  7. Kelvin Baswell

    My Grandfather was a pitcher for the Barons in 1943-1944!

  8. Kim Hipp-Matthews

    I lived 2 blocks from there in elementary school..I hope they never tear this down .

  9. Dennis McKay

    I think Sewanee has the oldest original college football stadium in operation.

  10. Hank Barfoot

    It would have been a lot more accurate to show a wide angle picture of that place. It is completely surrounded with urban decay.

  11. John Eugene Pline

    I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd there. And Reggie Jackson.

  12. Betty G. McAdory

    I attended many baseball games there with my Grandfather to see the Bham Barons.

  13. Albert Clayton

    I went to many games there.

  14. The neighborhood aside, Rickwood Field is still a magnificent place and a great place to visit while in Birmingham. It is open to the public during the week. The current White Sox AA Affiliate Barons play one game a year at Rickwood in an effort to help raise money for the Friends of Rickwood. Many other high school and small college games are played there each year.

    The history of Rickwood Field is unparalleled and walking into the place makes you feel like you are walking back in time. It is listed in the National Register of History Places so I don’t believe it is going anywhere.

    I’d encourage any baseball fan, especially any fan of baseball history to make a trip to see Rickwood. It’s worth the trip!

  15. Patsy Bonner

    Many memories of this grand place. Barons games, wrestling matches and high school games. Rode by there a few months ago reminiscing of my younger years. We lived not far from there.

  16. Vicki Shrader

    Caleb Spears…. great article. Thought you would like this!

  17. Greg Craven

    I played on that field when I was a kid. We had some pee wee football games there.

  18. Bryant Doc Doss

    Signed UP FOR METRO
    FOOTBALL HERE
    ALSO PLAYED A FEW PLAYOFF GAMES
    70’s

  19. David Vest

    Ah, yes. I remember going by bus to Rickwood, transferring downtown, to see the Barons play. Quite an adventure for a 12-year-old. Later I
    saw Reggie Jackson play his first pro game there, and several others of the 70s Oakland A’s. Charlie Finley, who also was a Birmingham boy, always made sure his best players went through his farm team there.

  20. Robert Rollan

    Had the privilege to coach several High school baseball games there in the late 80′ s. You could feel the legacy and history of the park as soon as you walked into it. Great place hope they never tear it down!

  21. Eleanor Andrews Claiborne

    Was there many times as my Uncle was a pitcher with the Barons

  22. Pete Tompson

    Like I didn’t pitch there. 1981 Sun Belt Conference champs!

  23. Jimmy Bryant

    I saw skynard concert there back in the 70 s

  24. Alabama Pioneers

    We just updated the article with a cool overhead video done by Kevin Henderson to show what Rickwood looks like today.

  25. I saw Ted Williams play here in the 40s. I also played here in 1950 in the Alabama State High School All-Star game.

  26. Donald Roy Chappell

    GIVE HIM TIME;;BELL WILL TARE IT DOWN FOR A WALKING TRACK OR HOUSING PROJECT

  27. Linda Rogers Fryer

    Great Day! Tours & Charter Bus Service

  28. Jeff Pollard

    Sàw my first pro baseball game at Rickwood. What an atmosphere!

  29. Linda Grissom

    Fred Grissom, thought you might be interested in this.

  30. I attended many Baron games at Rickwood in the 40’s and 50’s . Later I played in an all-star game there and bragged later that I hit a ball off the scoreboard. THEN , I had to tell the REST OF THE STORY.
    It was on the second bounce. GREAT memories of those times.

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