Melvin's unique memory of playing at Rickwood Field

June 5th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PHOENIX -- Count manager Bob Melvin among those most excited for the Giants’ game at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., on June 20.

“We’re really excited about that,” Melvin said. “You know, Willie [Mays] played there, so that’s something that everybody’s extremely excited about, celebrating the Negro Leagues and all that transpired there.

“Personally, I played over a year there at Double-A with the Tigers, so I’m excited about going back, too.”

Melvin played for the Birmingham Barons in 1982, '83 and '84, when Rickwood Field was their home ballpark. Asked what he remembered about the ballpark, there was no hesitation.

“I remember there used to be a Mello Yello sign in right-center field with a basket in it, and if you hit it in there, it was a hundred bucks," Melvin said. "And I made myself a hundred bucks one time."

I dug into the archives to see what information was out there on this home run basket, and I found an interesting blog entry from Benjamin Hill, a senior writer for He was recapping the 2010 Rickwood Classic between the Tennessee Smokies and the Birmingham Barons, and he shared an email from a reader named Sam Hamm, who was a Birmingham bat boy in the early ‘80s. From Hill's blog:

"In the ’80s, there was a big Mello Yello (?) sign above the right field fence with a basketball hoop attached. A player hitting a ball in the hoop would win some prize. I’m pretty sure that Mike Laga did it once in ’82 or ’83. I remember Mark Smith hitting one that summer during BP, and everyone giving him a hard time because it did not count."

Told this anecdote, Melvin did recall Laga’s hit and laughed at the Smith BP story, but he was bummed that his bucket homer wasn’t mentioned.

“You couldn’t find mine?!” Melvin exclaimed. “I may still have the $100 check.”

Alas, due to limited Minor League home run bucket data from the 1980s, Melvin’s accomplishment may have to exist only in legend.