America's oldest ballpark to get new look for MLB matchup in 2024

Cardinals, Giants pay tribute to Negro Leagues history with game at Rickwood Field

August 4th, 2023

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It seemed appropriate that there was a rain delay at America’s oldest ballpark.

As the rain poured down, the reveal was moved to the concourse behind home plate, where MLB, the city of Birmingham and the Friends of Rickwood nonprofit announced the new logo and renovations coming to Rickwood Field -- the former home of the Birmingham Black Barons. Like a ballgame getting delayed before a walk-off win in extra innings, the showcase event was a celebration of the exciting things coming to the ballpark next year.

The renovations will be for the June 20, 2024, MLB game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.

Bob Kendrick, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president, at Rickwood Field.Russell Kilgore Jr./MLB Photos

“This is a seminal moment in Negro Leagues and Black baseball history to have Major League Baseball come to Birmingham to Rickwood Field, where so much baseball history was made,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. “I've heard everyone mention the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants are going to play that game.

“I'm going to correct them. It is going to be the San Francisco Sea Lions against the St. Louis Stars in this game here at Rickwood Field.”

The regular-season matchup will be the first MLB game at a Negro Leagues ballpark. The game will also serve as a symbolic celebration of the Negro Leagues and Willie Mays, the Giants icon who played with the Barons in 1948.

Rickwood has played host to many Hall of Fame players, including Mays, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Hank Aaron. Their impact has left a lasting impression on the game, and past and present athletes.

“I feel super connected to this place, super connected to the Negro Leagues, so it's always going to be a mission of mine to be visible and make sure that I'm here and showing up any chance I get for the players that paved the way for me,” six-time All-Star CC Sabathia said.

Some of the esteemed guests who were present for the announcement were Kendrick, MLB Network analyst and emcee Harold Reynolds, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and former players: Sabathia, Ryan Howard, Ron “Papa Jack” Jackson and Randy Winn.

The reveal of the “MLB at Rickwood Field” logo featured white letters on a black background, 1910 (when the park was established), June 2024 and “A tribute to the Negro Leagues.” Its inspiration came from the era and posters that promoted Negro Leagues games. The font resembled woodblock printing -- the popular font of that time -- while the colors mirrored the iconic scoreboard in left field.

Harold Reynolds emceed the unveiling of the changes coming to the ballpark.Russell Kilgore Jr./MLB Photos

“When deciding on the name, MLB wanted to remain authentic and true to the purpose of why we’re doing this,” Reynolds said. “Rickwood Field and the Negro Leagues’ rich history are the stage and setting while the big leaguers on the Cardinals and Mays’ Giants are the stars of the show.”

To make the field fit in today’s age of baseball, the ballpark will undergo changes, notably to its dugouts, home plate, outfield wall and lighting. The dugouts will become larger and home plate will be pushed back 10 feet, which will alter the dimensions for other regions on the field. Temporary lights, a new backstop netting system and foul poles will also be added to the century-old ballpark.

The process will begin on Oct. 23, and it will take about six months to complete the renovations.

Rickwood Field has a rich history, playing host to all-time greats like Willie Mays.Russell Kilgore Jr./MLB Photos

“We're looking at trying to keep the ballpark and its authentic state as much as possible and keeping the legacy where it is,” MLB field and stadium consultant Murray Cook said. “So we're doing some things to improve it for safety reasons, and we're also looking at making it better, more for developing the game and playing the game.”

Birmingham is excited for the upcoming game at the cherished venue and appreciates what Negro Leagues baseball offered the city.

“It has been stated, but it is worth repeating that Rickwood Field is hallowed ground, where sports became more than entertainment,” Woodfin said. “It was a source of empowerment, and that's what this game represents next year -- progress, power and my favorite ‘P’, pride.”