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Rickwood Field: A Century in America's Oldest Ballpark Hardcover – July 26, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Take a poll of baseball fans about the most famous ancient ballparks in the U.S., and you'll get current landmarks like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, or those from the past like the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field. Few would ever think to mention Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., although as Barra explains in this highly informative book, the fabled Dixie ballpark deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. Opened in August 1910, Rickwood Field hosted some of the greatest players in history over the next several decades, like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Reggie Jackson, and dozens of others. But the park became a part of something bigger in Alabama, as not only was it the home of teams from both the minor leagues and Negro League but also "one of the few places where blacks and whites, at least a few of them, relaxed and enjoyed something together." To the city of Birmingham, baseball was so important that when an exhibition involving both white and black players violated city laws, everyone chose to "look the other way." Barra also explores several other issues, including the segregationist history of the city and the economic factors that molded the area over the years. With dozens of photographs from years past, along with numerous interviews from those who created the park's history (the last part of the book is devoted to contemporary accounts from those who love Rickwood), Barra provides a special glimpse into one of America's undeservedly unknown sports treasures.
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From Booklist

Rickwood Field, in Birmingham, Alabama, was built in 1909 after the baseball-obsessed son of one of the city’s iron barons, Rick Woodward, was inspired by attending the opening ceremonies at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. Barra, sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal, offers a vibrant, informative history of the field, which is still functional today, and the many personalities who passed through its gates, including what seems like most of the Baseball Hall of Fame as well as Michael Jordan, who played minor-league baseball in Birmingham. Bull Connor, of civil rights infamy, built his political base as the baseball announcer for Birmingham games. For much of the field’s history, the city housed minor-league teams affiliated with the major leagues, but it also was the home park for the Negro League Birmingham Black Barons. Barra includes a lengthy and moving appendix in which fans and players who experienced the stadium relate their favorite memories. A fascinating story, both of the history of a building and of minor-league baseball in its prime. --Wes Lukowsky
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 367 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (July 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393069338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393069334
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have been to Rickwood Field twice. Once to see what a restored park was like and the other for the 2010 Rickwood Classic. It is an amazing place that has the ability to let your mind wonder in ways only old baseball parks can. Allen Barra does a great job of bringing to life the history of Rickwood Field. From Rick Woodward, to the legendary Black Barons, to Charlie Finley's A's. As an enthusiast for Engel Stadium in Chattanooga and being apart of the Engel Foundation, I was particulary interested in what moved citizens of Birmingham to bring Rickwood back to life as a community asset. The key, to never let the memories die... This book goes a long way in making that happen.
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Format: Hardcover
Growing up in Chicago, I had the opportunity to attend many baseball games at two temples of the sport: Comiskey Park, where the Chicago White Sox played, and the venerable Wrigley Field, still home of the Chicago Cubs. Wrigley Field is major league baseball's second oldest park, having been constructed two years after Fenway Park. The thrill in being at these places came not only from watching the game being played, but also in sharing with family and spectators the history that was part of each park. I still recall my father discussing players such as Lefty Grove and Hank Greenberg as we watched athletes from a new generation like Luis Aparicio, Mickey Mantle and Billy Pierce. One of the joys of baseball is the never-ending argument that focuses on the history of the game and the skill of players from generation to generation.

Reading Allen Barra's latest book, I was surprised to learn that the oldest baseball park in America is not a major league stadium, but is instead Rickwood Field, home of the minor league Birmingham Barons. The stadium was constructed in 1910 by industrialist Rick Woodward for $75,000, an amount today that probably would not even purchase a skybox for the season. The Barons have relocated to suburban Hoover, Alabama, but Rickwood is presently undergoing restoration and renovation to become a baseball museum. The vast, rich history of this ballpark, as recounted by Barra, will make it a must-see location for any baseball fan.

In the decades between the World Wars, baseball was America's game and fans flocked to see games in minor league ballparks across the nation. Players were not paid the huge salaries that came as a result of free agency, and barnstorming and exhibition games in the off-season were common.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I visited Rickwood Field for the first time in June 2010 and fell in love with this old ballpark. The game was secondary, it was just a wonderful classic baseball experience, roaming around a 100 year old ballpark. Allen Barra has done a wonderful job of capturing that experience in this book. It is a great account of history in Birmingham, how it relates to the struggles of the South during the Depression, and with segregation and integration, and especially how it affected baseball and Rickwood Field. Barra has lots of wonderful anecdotes and interviews with those who played there. I highly recommend the book, then go to [...] and click on "history" for more old photos. Then plan a trip there. Rickwood Field is a living baseball museum, and Barra has captured the story so well. A must read for baseball lovers.
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Format: Hardcover
We've all heard the expression "if these walls could talk, the stories they could tell..."

That's what the very talented Allen Barra has done for the walls of Birmingham's Rickwood Field, the oldest ballpark in America. He has given them voice...And the stories they (and he) have told!!!

The stories told here are not so much about baseball as about baseball in changing times in the Deep South and the nation. In Rickwood Field's case, 1910-1997

An eclectic group of subjects in this work, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bull Connor, of all people, Walt Dropo, Jackie Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Dizzy Dean, Jimmy Piersall, Ty Cobb, and many other of the greatest names in baseball.

Much more than a baseball book, it is the story of social, economic and political change, all told in the venue of a very special ballpark.

If not a Grand Slam, then certainly a bases clearing triple...
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Format: Hardcover
RICKWOOD FIELD: A CENTURY IN AMERICA'S OLDEST BALLPARK provides a fine survey of Richwood Field, a 1910 ballpark envisioned by a local steel baron which is the country's oldest ballpark. Sports writer Allen Barra tells the ballpark's story and provides a concurrent history of Southern baseball, creating a lively survey of regional baseball evolution highly recommended for any sports library!
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Format: Hardcover
It's not often that a writer gets to compose a love letter to his favorite place in his old home town.

That's more or less what Allen Barra has done here. Barra, the fine writer for the Wall Street Journal and Village Voice and the author of some books, Barra grew up in the Birmingham, Alabama, area, and apparently got his early education in baseball there.

The setting was Rickwood Field, which is still open for business for amateur games even if the place is no longer used for professional play. Barra uses the fact that it's been 100 years since Rickwood Field open to launch a history of Birmingham baseball called "Rickwood Field." It was opened in 1910, based on the design of Shibe Park -- the home of the Philadelphia Athletics for several years. If you saw the movie "Cobb," you might remember the scene where Roger Clemens, playing pitcher Ed Walsh, goes up against Tommy Lee Jones, playing Ty Cobb. It was filmed here.

Every town should have someone like Barra doing a history like this. The first 200 pages or so stick mostly to the actual playing of the game. Birmingham had many great players pass through, either for the home team or visitors, despite so-called minor league statue. The list includes Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean, Ty Cobb and Reggie Jackson.

The highs and the lows mirror society, naturally. Birmingham had a team in the Negro Leagues, and segregation is part of the story. Heck, the legendary "Bull Conner," a name closely association with the civil rights movement of the Fifties and Sixties, was the team's radio announcer. Some years the place is packed, in others baseball has withered to the point of disappearing for a few years.
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