First all-Black crew to umpire Rickwood Field Game

June 19th, 2024
Adrian Johnson will be the crew chief for the MLB at Rickwood Field Game.

Rickwood Field will see history in multiple ways when the Cardinals take on the Giants on Thursday night.

Along with being the first regular-season AL/NL game to be played at America's oldest ballpark as a tribute to the Negro Leagues, the game will also be the first in AL/NL history to feature an all-Black umpiring crew, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Adrian Johnson, 49, will serve as crew chief, while Alan Porter, 46, will be behind the plate, per the report. C.B. Bucknor, 61, Jeremie Rehak, 36, and Malachi Moore, 34, will also work the game.

Additionally, confirmed that the Rickwood event will feature a Black official scorer: Frank Johnson, who currently scores Astros games in Houston.

The five are the only Black umpires currently working in the league, and there have been just 11 full-time Black umpires in the history of the American and National Leagues since Emmett Ashford became the first in 1966. The umpires for Thursday's game will wear a patch to honor Ashford, Rosenthal reports.

"The fact that we have enough guys to form a whole crew and have a replay guy as well, that says a lot," Johnson said, according to The Athletic. "It's been a long time coming. And it makes me very happy."

The idea to use an all-Black umpire crew was first brought up by Rob Field, MLB's senior manager of global events, Matt McKendry, vice president of umpire operations, told The Athletic. There had been a previous idea to do it for a Spring Training game, but the league wasn't able to work it out. The idea to use an all-Black crew for the Rickwood Game had the support of Commissioner Rob Manfred, senior vice president of baseball operations Michael Hill and the umpire's union, according to The Athletic.

The Black umpires were asked during their annual meeting in January whether they wanted to work the game.

"To a man, immediately, we all said yes," Johnson said. "Myself and the other guys, we were honored to be asked to work this game."

The league hopes these umps will help inspire other Black people to join the profession, according to The Athletic. Meanwhile, the umpires working Thursday's game will savor the moment.

"This is my 26th year," Bucknor said. "And given the opportunity to be part of history, I'm going to look at it as one of the highlights of my career."