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