Review by Mike
If you ask people to name the oldest baseball stadium in the United States, most people would say Wrigley Field in Chicago or Fenway Park in Boston. They would be wrong. Rickwood field in Birmingham, Alabama was built in 1910. It was home to many teams, including Minor League Baseball, the legendary Negro League Birmingham Black Barons, as well as the powerful industrial leagues that flourished in the 20s, 30s and 40s.
The local AA team, the Barons, left crumbling Rickwood in 1987 for a shiny new ballpark across town. For a time it looked like Rickwood would go the way of most old ballparks and meet the wrecking ball, but citizens banded together and had the stadium declared an historic landmark. After years of fundraising and restoration, Rickwood was ready again for action. Starting in 1996 the Barons play one game each year in their old home, the Rickwood Classic. This is not an exhibition, but an official game.
The wonderful thing about the Classic is not just the location, but the game itself is a time machines to a bygone era before dizzy bat races, sound effects, rock music and ear-shattering PA systems telling us when to clap and when to cheer. There's nothing but a little gentle swing music and the PA announcer telling us who the next batter is.
Without all of the modern hullabaloo, baseball returns to its pastoral roots. Fans are free to relax, chat and keep score of the game, free of the sensory overload that modern baseball organizations feel compelled to rain down upon their customers.
Pre-arranged press passes gave us access to all areas of the park. We went on the roof, onto the field and into the scoreboard. We even got a free lunch! Everyone was friendly as we all gently roasted in the Alabama sunshine. Though not universally famous, for ballpark lovers, Rickwood Field is a pilgrimage that must be made. It was worth every mile we drove to get there.
"As a big movie fan, I knew going in that the baseball scenes from Cobb (1994) and Soul of the Game (1995) were filmed at Rickwood, which stood in for Philly's Shibe Park and Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. The film productions contributed to the re-creation of the scoreboard and press-box and the addition of 1940s period style advertisements on the outfield fence. I thought it was cool that these additions were not only still in place when we visited in 2004, but also in 2012, when scenes from the Jackie Robinson movie, "42", were also filmed at Rickwood. THIS is the place to go to imagine what baseball looked like when it was played in the glory days.
Fun Fact: The Rickwood Field scoreboard serves as the model for the "Ballpark Visit Counter" (above) on this website.”
During our visit, I filmed this 5-minute "documentary" about our experience at The Rickwood Classic.