Major League Baseball will host a Negro Leagues tribute game at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama on June 20, 2024, between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The 10,800-seat stadium, opened in 1910, is the oldest professional baseball stadium in the US and a National Historic Site. The stadium was the home of the Birmingham Black Barons from 1924 to 1960.
«It’s an honor. Anytime I get to represent my culture in that way, especially at the MLB level, it’s always a joy,» said Cardinals rookie Jordan Walker, who is black. «All I have to do is stay healthy and ready and I want to play in that game, for sure.»
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The game will honor Hall of Famer Willie Mays, an Alabama native who began his professional career with the team in 1948.
«Willie played there, the oldest ballpark in the nation,» Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. «A truly incredible opportunity for our organization. Really excited.»
MLB said Tuesday it will host the game around the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans in Texas in 1865. There will also be a Double-A game at the stadium between the Birmingham Barons and the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League on June 18. June.
St. Louis will be the home team for the June 20 game, scheduled to kick off shortly after 7 p.m. EDT and to be televised nationally on Fox. Period uniforms related to the history of the Negro Leagues of St. Louis will be worn. Francis and St.Louis.
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«The legacy of the Negro Leagues and its greatest living player, Willie Mays, is one of excellence and perseverance,» baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. «We look forward to sharing the stories of the Negro Leagues throughout this event next year.»
Mays, 92, is generally considered baseball’s greatest living player. After playing with Birmingham, he signed with the New York Giants and was voted the 1951 National League Rookie of the Year as the Giants won the National League pennant.
Mays, a World Series champion with the Giants in 1954, was a 24-time All-Star, tied with Stan Musial for second behind Hank Aaron’s 25. Mays won the Major League Baseball batting title in 1954 and was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1954 and 1965.
«I can not believe it. I never thought in my life that I would watch a Major League game on the same field where I played baseball as a teenager,» Mays said in a statement. «It’s been 75 years since I played for the Birmingham Black Barons at Rickwood Field, and knowing that my Giants and Cardinals will play there and honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and all who came before them is truly emotional for me. We can’t forget what brought us here and it was the Negro Leagues for many of us.»
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MLB will work with the City of Birmingham and the Friends of Rickwood to renovate the ballpark, home of the minor league Barons from 1910-1961, 1964-65, 1981-87. The Barons have played since 2013 at Regions Field, about 3 miles away, and trade Rickwood one game a year in tribute to the team’s history.
Walker said it was important that baseball honor the history of the Negro Leagues.
«It really was an introduction to black people in baseball. I know Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Before that, that was all we had,» he said. «So everyone that comes out, represents our culture and the game of baseball, it’s really special. That’s really the main reason I’m here today, it’s all that support.»