Cardinals, Giants to play at oldest professional ballpark in '24

June 21st, 2023

Major League Baseball is coming to the oldest professional ballpark in the United States.

Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala. -- the former home of the Negro Leagues' Birmingham Black Barons, where Willie Mays once played -- will host the Cardinals and Giants for a special regular-season game on June 20, 2024.

"We are proud to bring Major League Baseball to historic Rickwood Field in 2024," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "This opportunity to pay tribute to the Negro Leagues as the Giants and Cardinals play a regular season game at this iconic location is a great honor. The legacy of the Negro Leagues and its greatest living player, Willie Mays, is one of excellence and perseverance. We look forward to sharing the stories of the Negro Leagues throughout this event next year."

MLB announced plans for the game on Tuesday. Scheduled around Juneteenth next year, it will include a tribute to the Negro Leagues and Mays, baseball's oldest living Hall of Famer and a Birmingham native, who played for the Black Barons in 1948 before his legendary career with the Giants.

"I can’t believe it. I never thought I’d see in my lifetime a Major League Baseball game being played on the very field where I played baseball as a teenager," Mays said. "It has been 75 years since I played for the Birmingham Black Barons at Rickwood Field, and to learn that my Giants and the Cardinals will play a game there and honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and all those who came before them is really emotional for me. We can’t forget what got us here and that was the Negro Leagues for so many of us."

The game will be broadcast nationally on FOX at 7 p.m. ET.

“It’ll be a special moment,” Giants first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr. said. “Any time you can bring light to the Negro League players and everything they’ve done for our game -- to build a game all around that and also honor Willie, that’ll be really cool. I’m definitely looking forward to playing in that game.”

Added Giants manager Gabe Kapler: “Really incredible opportunity for our organization. I’m really excited about it.”

The Giants and Cardinals, who will be the home team, will wear period uniforms that honor San Francisco's and St. Louis' Negro League histories.

"Birmingham, Alabama, has a rich history of baseball, and has hosted Cardinals legends such as Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Joe Medwick and Rogers Hornsby over the years," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "We are looking forward to this historic showcase of baseball in the South that celebrates the great heritage of the Negro Leagues, Minor League Baseball and, of course, the iconic Willie Mays."

MLB, the Friends of Rickwood and the City of Birmingham will collaborate to renovate the field for 2024.

"I am so excited that Birmingham will be able to share the magic and legacy of Rickwood Field with Major League Baseball's millions of fans," Birmingham mayor Randall L. Woodfin said. "America's oldest professional ballpark still echoes with the sounds of the legends who graced this field. I want to thank Major League Baseball for sharing this vision to commemorate Juneteenth and celebrate the Negro Leagues in the Magic City."

Two days before San Francisco and St. Louis play at the National Historic Site, Rickwood Field will also host a Minor League game between the Double-A Birmingham Barons and Montgomery Biscuits on June 18, 2024.

The Barons played at Rickwood Field from 1910-61, 1964-65 and 1981-87. Today, they still play one game at Rickwood Field every year -- the Rickwood Classic, which began in 1996 -- to pay tribute to their history at the ballpark.

"Rickwood Field has played a significant role in the Birmingham community for over a hundred years and we’re thrilled to be a special part of this event in 2024," Barons president and general manager Jonathan Nelson said.

The Black Barons played their Negro League home games at Rickwood Field from 1924 through 1960. The field hosted the final Negro League World Series game in October 1948, with the Homestead Grays defeating a teenage Mays and the Black Barons.

A slew of baseball legends have played at Rickwood Field throughout its long history: Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Cool Papa Bell, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Oscar Charleston, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Rube Foster, Lou Gehrig, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, Reggie Jackson, Buck Leonard, Biz Mackey, Mickey Mantle, Connie Morgan, Musial, Satchel Paige, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Duke Snider, Toni Stone, Cristobal Torriente, Honus Wagner, Willie Wells and more.

"Preserving the legacy of the Negro Leagues is vital to growing baseball’s diversity and popularity," MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark said. "Willie Mays, like so many other Negro Leaguers, broke down barriers and paved the way for those of us who dreamt of playing baseball at the highest level. This event helps to link the past, present and future and helps further the cause of attracting a new generation of players to our game."