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on August 2, 2010
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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on August 9, 2010
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. In addition, the baseball leagues were segregated into separate leagues for white and black players. Rickwood Field was home to both the Barons and the Black Barons of the Negro National League. It was at Rickwood Field in the spring of 1926 that the Black Lookouts of Chattanooga faced the Black Barons. The Chattanooga pitcher was an impressive young man, and Birmingham offered him $275 a month to pitch for them. Young Satchel Paige was receiving $50 a month from Chattanooga, so the offer was quickly accepted. In Birmingham, the Paige legend began.

Paige was not the only Hall of Famer to play at Rickwood. The list is long and includes Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and 18-year-old Willie Mays, who played there in 1948 in the last Negro League World Series.

The Birmingham Barons, a farm team of the Chicago White Sox, played their last game at Rickwood in 1987. The stadium remained a facility for high school teams and was the setting for the movies Cobb and Soul of the Game. Local business leaders and fans have raised millions of dollars to maintain Rickwood and turn it into a baseball museum. Barra, while content to note the great history of the park, also gives appropriate mention to the restoration activities and instructs readers how they may join in the effort.

While RICKWOOD FIELD suffers to a small degree from Barra's hyperbole (too many players are the greatest ever, and too many events are unparalleled), he has produced a wonderful literary homage to an era and moment of baseball history that is unlikely to be experienced again. More than the sport is the history of the American South, moving from segregation to integration with sports being a prime factor in that evolution. Barra captures just how far the South --- and America --- has come in the 100 years since Rickwood Field opened its doors.
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on October 19, 2013
I ordered this book after visiting Rickwood Field and really getting into the history of it all. I had visited it as a kid and had no idea it was still standing. The author does a very nice job of showing why Rickwood Field is so special. He folds it into Birmingham's less than exemplary history around race relations. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was becuase I thought it could have been a bit shorter. A lot of the stories of old ball players kinda run together after awhile. But, that said, I really enjoyed the book and I plan to go to the Rickwood Classic in 2014.
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on September 28, 2010
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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VINE VOICEon April 23, 2011
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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on October 16, 2010
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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on February 19, 2016
Great read. Good Birmingham history as well as baseball.
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on October 19, 2015
Great book on Rickwood Field!
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on March 21, 2015
Rickwood Field is the grand dame of minor league baseball. But, Negro baseball was not the significance of Rickwood.
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on July 8, 2015
The story of Rickwood Field and the Birmingham Barons – this is the story of my childhood from the mid-1930s up to 1948, when I left to join the US Air Force. Great memories of a great place!
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