The Birmingham Barons and Friends of Rickwood announced details Thursday for the 18th Annual Rickwood Classic presented by State Farm Insurance. Set for Wednesday, May 29, the classic will celebrate the legendary 1948 Birmingham Black Barons. The 12:30 p.m. contest will showcase the Birmingham Barons against the Tennessee Smokies, Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Former Cy Young award winner and baseball Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins will be in attendance as the Guest of Honor and will be available for autographs during the game.
This will be the third appearance for the Smokies in the classic and their second in four years. The Barons won the first Classic meeting between the two squads by a score of 3-2 in 2006 but lost the most recent matchup 8-7 in 2010.
This year's classic will celebrate the 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 1948 Black Barons won 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 will don 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. The Smokies will wear the uniforms of the 1935-36 Knoxville Giants.
"We are excited to celebrate the 18th installment of the Rickwood Classic by honoring one of the best Birmingham baseball teams of all time," said Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson. "The Rickwood Classic is a very special event in the Birmingham community and over the years has been recognized nationally as a must-attend baseball game. Along with the Friends of Rickwood and State Farm Insurance we are looking forward to providing another fun and memorable afternoon at America's oldest ballpark."
"The Friends of Rickwood are proud to be involved in the City's commemoration of the pivotal years of the Civil Rights Movement, and are excited to showcase the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, for their contributions both on and off the field," said Director of the Friends of Rickwood David Brewer. "Rickwood Field and the Black Barons contributed invaluably to the shaping of community identity and civic pride for Birmingham's African-American community. The Friends of Rickwood are extremely excited about the 2013 Rickwood Classic, and would like to thank our partners, the Birmingham Barons and State Farm Insurance®," Brewer noted.
Jenkins, the first Canadian born player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, enjoyed a 19-year Major League career. A three time all-star, Jenkins won the 1971 National League Cy Young Award and was named the 1974 American League Comeback Player of the Year after winning 25 games with the Texas Rangers. Jenkins played the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs and his #31 was retired by the team in 2009.
"State Farm® is once again very pleased to sponsor this fun, family outing in 2013," said State Farm® Marketing Analyst Cathy Warren. "The Rickwood Classic is one of those events that should be on every baseball fan's list of must do's. The environment and ambiance at Rickwood Field is wonderful and it takes you back in history just by being there watching a game." This will be the 10th straight year that State Farm Insurance® has been the title sponsor of the Rickwood Classic.
The Rickwood Classic was named Minor League Baseball's Promotion of the Year in 2010 and in 2009 the event was named the most desirable Minor League Baseball game to attend in a poll on MiLB.com. Over 115,000 people have attended the Rickwood Classic since it's inception in 1996.
Tickets for the 18th Annual Rickwood Classic are currently available on the web or by phone. The 2013 Birmingham Barons will play their home opener at Regions Field on Wednesday, April 10th against the Mississippi Braves, Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.