America’s oldest pro baseball field in Alabama to be featured in new documentary Rickwood: The Soul of Birmingham

Published 7:38 am Monday, June 10, 2024

America’s oldest professional ballpark is not in New York, Chicago or Boston.

It is Rickwood Field, founded in 1910 in Birmingham, Alabama.

Rickwood, host to nearly 200 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was the site of the 2013 movie “42” about pioneering baseball legend Jackie Robinson, and is the former home of the Negro Leagues’ Birmingham Black Barons – which in 1948 signed a 17-year-old Willie Mays. On June 18, 2024 it will host a Minor League Baseball game featuring the Montgomery Biscuits and the Birmingham Barons – honoring the Negro Leagues legacy by playing as the Montgomery Grey Sox and Birmingham Black Barons. This will be followed on June 20 by a special Major League Baseball contest at Rickwood between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.

But first, as the nation prepares to celebrate Juneteenth, a new documentary honoring and exploring the history of Rickwood and its original hometown team debuts June 11 exclusively on the Very Local app, available to stream for free on all mobile, tablet and connected TV devices.

Rickwood: The Soul of Birmingham, produced by Burning Sands Productions, explores the legacy and determination of the Black Barons and their fans to overcome injustices in what was once among the country’s most segregated cities, and even offers a roadmap for towns across America faced with tough decisions about their aging ballparks. Among local luminaries offering reminiscences in the documentary are area natives including former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and popular actor and comedian Roy Wood Jr.

“This story is told through the voice of Rickwood Field,” said Laura Ling, VP, programming at Very Local. “It may be an inanimate object, but it comes to life to share stories of the ghosts of the past and the promise of tomorrow. Rickwood is the real ‘Field of Dreams.'”

“The magic and history of Rickwood Field may surprise even the most knowledgeable baseball fan,” said Michael Fountain, the documentary’s executive producer. “When a visitor sits in the bleachers behind home plate and looks out at the field, one can’t help but take a trip back in time and visualize the greats that played or coached on that field.”

Hearst Television’s Birmingham station, WVTM-TV, also will air a special this month, Rickwood Field: A Return to Glory, which will also be available to stream on Very Local.