Lineups and everything else to know about MLB at Rickwood Field (7 ET, FOX)

June 20th, 2024

Tonight, the Giants and Cardinals will square off for the first regular-season AL/NL game ever played at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., the site where the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues played for nearly four decades and where more than 180 future Hall of Famers showcased their skills.

The event, dubbed "MLB at Rickwood Field: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues," will pay homage to the stadium's rich history not just as a Negro Leagues park, but as a key cog in baseball history. It will also be a time to remember the life and legacy of Willie Mays, who passed away at the age of 93 on Tuesday.

“Thursday’s game at historic Rickwood Field was designed to be a celebration of Willie Mays and his peers. With sadness in our hearts, it will now also serve as a national remembrance of an American who will forever remain on the short list of the most impactful individuals our great game has ever known," Commissioner Rob Manfred said.

As the memories of the revered greats of the past echo throughout the event, the stars of today will honor their legacy as the stadium gets a much-deserved fresh spotlight.

Here's what you need to know about the game.

When is the game and how can I watch?

The game is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. ET on Thursday. It will be broadcast nationally on FOX.

What is the significance of Rickwood Field?

Rickwood Field is the oldest professional ballpark in the United States. It opened in 1910 and was the home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues from 1924-1960.

Modeled mostly after the old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, the park has seen 181 future Hall of Famers pass through since 1910, from Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth to Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson.

Perhaps most notably, a teenage Willie Mays manned center field for the Black Barons in 1948 as they played in the final Negro League World Series. Mays played two more seasons for the Barons before making his debut with the Giants.

“He probably inspired me to play baseball and like it as much as I did,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said. “I was a huge Willie Mays fan. For us to be able to go to Rickwood and celebrate that game where he played and all that’s involved now with the Negro Leagues and the stats being incorporated, I think we’re a perfect team to go there."

Rickwood was also the home of the first integrated team in Alabama, and it was home to the Double-A Birmingham Barons of the Southern League from 1981-87.

You can learn more about the cross-section of baseball in Birmingham and the Civil Rights movement by listening to "Road to Rickwood," a podcast from WWNO, an NPR station in New Orleans.

What is the ballpark capacity?

Rickwood Field has previously had a capacity of 10,800, but the ticketed-seating capacity for the Giants-Cardinals game will be about 8,300.

Has the stadium been renovated?

Yes. In preparation for the park's first regular-season AL/NL game, the entire playing surface was given an extensive $5 million makeover. Crews have added a new and padded outfield wall and moved the wall back 10 feet. They've even shifted the entire field to the left by five feet.

Other changes include new dugouts, a modern batter's eye in center field, a digital scoreboard, netting along the foul lines and accessibility upgrades.

Who is the home team?

The Cardinals will be the home team. Thursday's game is the first in a three-game series between the teams. After an off-day on June 21, the final two games of the series will be played in St. Louis.

Who are the likely starters?

Giants: RHP
It’s been a turbulent season for Winn, but the rookie right-hander took a step forward in his last start against the Angels on Saturday, allowing three runs over six innings in his first quality start since April 28. The 26-year-old made his Major League debut against the Cardinals last season and earned the save after coming out of the bullpen to fire four innings of one-run ball at Busch Stadium.

Cardinals: RHP
The Cardinals have seemingly settled on Pallante as their No. 5 starter as a replacement for lefty Steven Matz, who has been out since May 3 with a back injury. Pallante sandwiched scoreless starts against the Reds and Rockies around a rough outing against the Astros. In his fourth start of the season, he allowed two runs and one earned run in 3 1/3 innings. Pallante started the season in the bullpen and became a starter following a stint with Triple-A Memphis.

What are the starting lineups?

LaMonte Wade Jr. was pushing hard to return from a left hamstring strain in time to play in Thursday’s jewel event, but the Giants opted not to rush back their starting first baseman and risk reinjury, leaving them without one of their best hitters for a while longer.

Still without injured starters Willson Contreras (fractured left forearm), Lars Nootbaar (left oblique strain) and Tommy Edman (right wrist surgery), the Cards' offense is heavily dependent on the slugging capabilities of Arenado, Goldschmidt and Gorman. Winn and Burleson have been pleasant surprises.

Will this count as a regular-season game?


What is the history of baseball in Birmingham?

Birmingham has been a pro baseball city since 1885, when a team called the Coal Barons began play. The city was later home to the Black Barons of the Negro Leagues for more than 40 years and has been a staple of Minor League ball for nearly 140 years.

The Double-A Birmingham Barons have been a farm team of the White Sox since 1986, and have also been a feeder club for the Tigers, Cubs, Reds, Pirates, A's, Yankees and Red Sox. The Barons currently play home games at Regions Field, which opened in 2013.

Among the players to pass through Birmingham on their way to the bigs are Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, and All-Stars Tim Anderson, Robin Ventura, Mark Buehrle and Bo Jackson. NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan also suited up for the Barons when he pursued a baseball career in 1994.

Will the teams wear special uniforms?

Yes. The teams will wear throwback uniforms that highlight the history of the Negro Leagues in San Francisco and St. Louis.

What other events are planned in conjunction with the game?

There are many other events planned during the week leading up to the Rickwood game. They include:

June 17: A free screening of the documentary "Say Hey, Willie Mays!" will take place at 5 p.m. CT at Historic Carver Theater, 1631 4th Ave. N, Birmingham.

June 18: MLB will host a PLAY BALL event from noon-1:30 p.m. CT at Regions Field, home of the Double-A Birmingham Barons, where more than 100 local children will partake in baseball-related fitness activities.

June 18: The Birmingham Barons will host the Montgomery Biscuits at 6 p.m. CT at Rickwood Field, with each team using its name from the Negro Southern League (Birmingham Black Barons, Montgomery Gray Sox).

June 19: Representatives from MLB, along with some VIP guests, will visit the Children's of Alabama pediatric hospital from 10-11 a.m. CT.

June 20: Free MLB at Rickwood Field watch parties will be held at the following Black-owned restaurants: Continental Drift, 2201 7th Ave. S, Birmingham; Denim on 7th, 2808 7th Ave. S #105, Birmingham; SLEEK, 1005 20th St. S, Birmingham; and Uptown Jazz Club, 2250-B 9th Ave. N., Birmingham.

Is there anything else fans should know?

  • All living Negro League players have been invited to the game (157 total), and 60 are confirmed to attend.
  • Rickwood Field was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
  • The Birmingham Barons returned to Rickwood once per season from 1996-2019 for the Rickwood Classic, a throwback event to honor the history of baseball in the city.
  • Rickwood became the home field for Miles College, an HBCU, in 2018, and it also hosts various high school games and baseball camps.
  • Rickwood was used during the filming of the Jackie Robinson biopic "42" in 2013. It was also used for the period baseball films "Cobb" in 1994 and "Soul of the Game" in 1996.
  • The Savannah Bananas played to a sellout crowd at Rickwood in 2022.