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Rickwood Classic

 

Since 1996 the Birmingham Barons have traveled back to historic Rickwood Field once a year to celebrate Birmingham's rich baseball past.

The home of the Birmingham Barons from 1910-1987, Rickwood Field is America's oldest in-use ballpark. The Friends of Rickwood, a non-profit organization, have helped preserve the timeless relic and part of the proceeds from each year's Classic goes towards improvements and upkeep on the stadium.

The Rickwood Classic has annually been one of the most popular events for baseball fans both in Alabama and across the country. It was voted as the most anticpated Minor League Baseball Game of 2009 on MiLB.com, was listed fifth on the list of top events in 2008 by the Alabama Tourism Department, and in 2007 was named one of the "101 Things All Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die" in a column written by ESPN.com's Jim Caple. At the conclusion of the 2010 season, the Rickwood Classic was named MiLB.com's Promotion of the Year.

The 2014 Classic celebrated the 'Roarding 20's', a decade that saw the Barons capture two Southern Association titles and set numerous attendance records at Rickwood Field. During the decade, the Barons drew 160,000 fans or more to Rickwood eight times including a then team-record 299,150 in 1927. In 1928, the team posted a team batting average of .331 while winning a club-record 99 games for manager Johnny Dobbs. That team would beat Memphis in a three-game sweep to capture their first championship since 1914. The next season, the Barons made it back-to-back titles under Dobbs as 13 players hit .300 or better, a Southern Association record. That season, the Barons also won their first Dixie Series, besting Dallas from the Texas League, 4-2.

The decade also saw some of the most iconic figures in Barons history pass through Rickwood Field. Legendary player-manager Carlton Molesworth wrapped up a storied career in 1922 and remains one of just three Barons' managers to win two Southern Association or Southern League titles. Third baseman Harold 'Pie' Traynor spent the 1921 season in Birmingham, hitting .336 with 22 doubles, 53 RBI and 101 runs scored en route to a 17-year Major League Career. He would go on to become the first third baseman elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. From 1927-'29 the Barons were led by hitters Clarence 'Yam' Yaryan and Elliot Bigelow who led the team with 19 home runs in 1927 and a .395 average in 1928.

The Baronsdonned replica uniforms featuring the iconic monogram B in Old English script on the left side of the jersey. The Birmingham News decried that the uniforms were, "…about the classiest ever - a white jersey with a red stripe along the outside seams and around the sleeves". Meanwhile, the Age-Herald described them as, "…some of the prettiest ever made up for the Barons".

2013 (18th Annual Rickwood Classic)

The 2013 Classic honored the legendary 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, considered by many to be the best Black Barons team of all time and one of the greatest Negro League team's in history. The Black Barons shared Rickwood Field with the Barons and drew capacity crowds on a nightly basis. The team featured a young Willie Mays, Piper Davis, Artie Wilson, William Greason, Jimm Zapp, Johosie Heard and other well-known Negro League stars. The team would go on to win the Negro American League pennant over the rival Kansas City Monarchs but were defeated by the Homestead Grays (Negro National League pennant winners) in the Negro League World Series. Mays, Piper Davis, Artie Wilson, William Greason and Jehosie Heard all eventually signed with Major League clubs.

The Barons donned the uniforms worn by the 1948 Black Barons team featuring the triple B logo, considered to be one of the iconic Negro League uniforms in history while the Smokies wore the uniforms of the 1935-36 Knoxville Giants.

Former Cy Young Award winner and three-time All-Star Fergie Jenkins was the Classic's special guest and watched as the Barons defeated the Smokies 6-3 behind three hits and two RBI from catcher Miguel Gonzalez.

2012 (17th Annual Rickwood Classic)

The 2012 Rickwood Classic paid tribute to baseball's wartime past and focused on baseball's connection to America's war-time history. During World War II and the Korean War, hundreds of baseball players served in America's armed forces including Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Warren Spahn.

The Barons donned uniforms from the early 1940's when they were affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds. The uniforms also featured the Hale America "Health" patch, which was worn by both major league and minor league teams during the era. Hale America was a nationwide fitness program designed to promote national physical well being at the outset of World War II and the Health shield was the organization's logo.

Former MVP and Atlanta Braves Legend Dale Murphy was the Classic's special guest.

A late Barons rally fell short as the team lost to the Lookouts 7-6.

Information about past Rickwood Classic games:

2011 (16th Annual Rickwood Classic)

The 2011 Rickwood Classic honored the final season of the Southern Association, 1961, as the Birmingham Barons and Chattanooga Lookouts battled down to the last days of the '61 season that ultimately resulted in a Lookouts one-game championship. The Barons and Lookouts wore 1961-style uniforms to honor the 1961 season.

Hall of Fame pitcher, Gaylord Perry, will be the Classic's special guest.

In one of the most exciting installments of the Rickwood Classic, the Barons won 4-3 on a walk-off home run by Justin Greene in the 11th inning.

2010 (15th Annual Rickwood Classic)

 

The 2010 Rickwood Classic was a special day that paid homage to the 100th anniversary of Rickwood Field.

 

Despite having one of ESPN's Top 10 Plays, Salvador Sanchez's basket catch, the Birmingham Barons lost to the Tennessee Smokies, 7-8, on Wednesday, June 2.

Both the Barons and Tennessee Smokies wore turn-of-the-century uniforms to honor the centennial birthday for America's oldest ballpark.

The late Hall of Fame slugger, Harmon Killebrew, was the special guest of the Classic and the 2009 Rickwood Classic took a page from its All-Star Game counterpart, honoring a1982 season that saw the Atlanta Braves travel to Rickwood Field to take on the Southern League All-Stars.

2009 (14th Annual Rickwood Classic)

 

The 2009 Rickwood Classic took a little page from its All-Star Game counterpart, honoring a1982 season that saw the Atlanta Braves travel to Rickwood Field to take on the Southern League All-Stars.

 

Wearing their '82 red jerseys with white trim, the Barons took on the Mississippi Braves in front of 7,396 fans. The game was attended by special guest of honor, and longtime Braves broadcaster, Pete Van Wieren. The first 1,000 fans to enter the gates received a replica ticket that was used for the 1982 Southern League All Star Game.

The Barons took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning, but a two-run, ninth inning home run off the bat of Eric Campbell proved to be the difference in the game. The Barons now hold a 7-7 record in the Rickwood Classic.

White Sox infielder, and 2008 first round draft pick, Gordon Beckham played his final Barons game at the Classic. He started at third base and batted in the three hole. He went 0-for-2 but drew two walks and scored a run. He was promoted to Charlotte following the game.

2008 (13th Annual Rickwood Classic)
As in past years, the 2008 Rickwood Classic celebrated a particular era of Birmingham's baseball history. The 13th Annual Rickwood Classic Presented by State Farm Insurance was held May 28 at 12:35 pm when the Barons hosted the Jacksonville Suns.

Former Baron Jimmy Piersall, an outfielder on the 1951-52 teams and 17-year Major Leaguer, was in attendance at the game. The first 1,500 fans through the gate received a vintage portrait of Piersall from the 1952 season, and he was available for autographs during the contest.

This season, the squad honored the 1951-52 teams that were affiliated with the Boston Red Sox. The uniforms were gray with "Birmingham" written across the chest in blue script, and the hats featured the red and black Boston Red Sox "B". The Jacksonville Suns wore their uniforms from the 1967 team that featured Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.

2007 (12th Annual Rickwood Classic)
In 2007, the Barons celebrated their affiliation with the Kansas City A's organization in 1964 and 1965, which coincided with the first two years of existence for the Southern League. Barons' players donned the gold road uniforms of the 1964 Birmingham Barons, and the Jacksonville Suns wore their uniforms from the 1967 team that featured Hall-of-Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.

Rickwood Field was vacant for two seasons before the Barons were reborn in 1964 in the newly formed Southern League. Rickwood saw stars such as Bert Campaneris, Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan, Rene and Marcel Lachemann, and manager John McNamara during this time period.

2006 (11th Annual Rickwood Classic)
In 2006, Birmingham played the Tennessee Smokies with festivities geared around the era of the Birmingham Barons' affiliation with the New York Yankees (1953-56). The Barons wore white uniforms with blue pinstripes, as well as blue caps with a custom-style "B" from the mid-1950's era.

The 2006 season marked the 50th anniversary of Birmingham's final year of affiliation with the Yankees, a season during which the Yankees won the 17th of their now-26 World Championships. In a 1955 exhibition game, the Barons defeated the Yankees by the score of 9-5 at Rickwood Field. Along with manager Casey Stengel, other Yankees who played in the exhibition included Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Mickey Mantle. Notable players from the Barons roster during Birmingham's affiliation with New York are John Blanchard (1956), Al Cicotte (1953, 1955), Jim Coates (1955), Hal Smith (1953), Tom Sturdivant (1953), Sam Suplizio (1956), Ralph Terry (1955) and Gus Triandos (1953). After being traded in 1954, Triandos went on to become an All-Star with the Baltimore Orioles.

2005 (10th Annual Rickwood Classic)
In honor of the special 10-year anniversary of the Rickwood Classic, the Barons incorporated numerous aspects of their history into the festivities. The Barons players donned an "All-Star" mix of uniforms from the previous nine Classics that included replica uniforms from each Classic. The Montgomery Biscuits wore the uniforms of the Montgomery Climbers, that city's team from the early 1900's that faced off against the Barons in the inaugural game at Rickwood on August 18, 1910.

2004 (9th Annual Rickwood Classic)
The Barons and Stars put on the uniforms of Industrial League teams that played in the 1930's. Birmingham wore the uniforms of Sloss Industries and Huntsville represented U.S. Steel. This match-up turned back the clock to a classic industrial league battle between two of Birmingham's oldest and most historically-rich companies.

The Industrial Leagues in Birmingham consisted of teams sponsored by local businesses and the rosters were made up of the workers from those companies. Games between industry rivals constituted major social events, with music and food, and helped foster pride and loyalty to the employer. The ballplayers themselves were typically seen as heroes to their co-workers and community and being a baseball player for your company was considered a most prestigious position.

Many players made the transition from the Industrial Leagues to professional baseball. Numerous standouts for the Birmingham Black Barons, like Piper Davis, George "Mule" Suttles, Artie Wilson and others, played industrial ball in Birmingham.

2003 (8th Annual Rickwood Classic)
The Barons and Huntsville Stars took a look back at the 1980's and paid tribute to the people and events of a decade that was important to both teams. For the Barons, the decade saw the team return to Rickwood from Montgomery in 1981 and win two Southern League Championships in 1983 and 1987. For the Classic, the Barons donned the uniforms of the 1983 Championship team, which posted an all-time Southern League-best home record of 57-16.

For Huntsville, the Stars were born in the 80's when the team began its professional existence in 1985. The very first game in Stars history was in Birmingham when they took on the Barons at Rickwood Field on April 12th; the Barons won a slugfest, 15-12. In honor of that day the Stars wore their original uniforms from their inaugural year.

2002 (7th Annual Rickwood Classic)
The Barons featured the uniform of the 1928 Southern Association champions. Under the direction of skipper Johnny Dobbs, the 1928 Barons won a club-record 99 games and claimed their first league title in 14 years after sweeping Memphis in three games.