From Rickwood Field to World Champions…

Many have called the Oakland A’s of the early 1970s a dynasty. Those teams won three world championships and five American League West Division crowns, all in a row. Those years, when the A’s were the best in the world, “We were the best team I’ve ever seen,” recalled pitcher Rollie Fingers. “We had a solid bench, pitching, hitting, speed, everything.” Ball players trained at Rickwood Field fueled Oakland’s rise to the top. Their names are legend: Fingers, Campaneris, Jackson, Odom, Rudi, Duncan, Kubiak, Tenace, Blue, and one of Birmingham’s native sons, A’s owner Charles Finley.

They were a fighting, feuding group, the Oakland A’s. They fought with each other and with Finley, and they became baseball’s preeminent team. Reggie Jackson, who spearheaded the 1967 Birmingham A’s, called the Oakland A’s “the meanest junkyard dogs who ever played the game…We were like a pickup team from the ghetto, and nobody wanted to come into our neighborhood and play.”

Star power abounds within these pages: of those who rose to the top and those who did not. Some became champions; others did not. This book tells their stories.

This is one of the best sports books I have ever read.  Jim Palmer, Retired Teacher, Altamont School

From sandlots to the majors with stops at Rickwood Field…

Fame and Fortune in The Show transports the reader through the years of the Great Depression and into the middle 1960’s. Art Black weaves baseball into the fabric of America’s defining event of the twentieth century: the Second World War. From the opening pages, the book draws you in, as Germany invades Poland, as America enters the conflict, and as newspapers bring the war — and baseball — to the world. An imaginary, old-school newspaper reporter tells the story.

The book, however, is not about World War II or about world affairs. The book is about baseball. It is about people — from the coal mines, from the factories and the foundries, people who could hear the crack of the bat from the stands and people who could hear it miles away over the radio as life played out in theaters of war and hardship and victory and change.

Through it all winds a thread of racial tension that wounded a city but didn’t kill it. And within are stories of those who performed at Rickwood Field: Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Satchel Paige, Casey Stengel, and many others. You’ll read of Willie Mays before fame and fortune found him. You’ll meet a famous broadcaster and a master promoter. You’ll cheer a disturbed Jim Piersall before he endured a nervous breakdown.

The book is about baseball at Rickwood Field and is an homage to all the ball players who played at Rickwood on their way to or from the big leagues, or as happenstance would have it, to or from ordinary circumstances in extraordinary times. 

Art Black takes us on a wondrous tour of a time in America’s history when baseball truly was the National Pastime….The players and games do not exist in a vacuum but are presented against the background of events that shaped — and reshaped — our country.” — Frederick C. Bush, editor, Negro League histories

A story to lift your spirits…

Discover the book that explores a young Birmingham and early baseball within the context of world events. In the early 1900’s, Birmingham was evolving as a major southern city, and the world faced a global war. As flappers reigned and Lindbergh flew the Atlantic, spirits soared in America. Then came a stock market crash and the Great Depression.

Within this mix, the minor league Birmingham Barons gave the Magic City a reason to celebrate. Showdown at Rickwood introduces us to an aging pitcher facing a brash up-and-comer of the Houston Buffaloes in the 1931 Dixies Series. The aging pitcher, Ray Caldwell, is forty-three years old and a grandfather. The up-and-comer, Dizzy Dean, is twenty-one, on the brink of a Hall of Fame career.

Showdown describes events and people of a turbulent time — people who grappled with and overcame setbacks and dilemmas. You’ll start rooting for the men of the Birmingham Barons early on, and the way the author puts the story of Rickwood and its people into historical context makes you part of a time and a way of life left far behind. This is a celebration, but not simply one of joy. It is a celebration of people who overcame challenges to survive at what they wanted most to do. In the end, Showdown at Rickwood celebrates the human spirit.

“This book is so entertaining, it reads like a novel that is so good you’re sort of sad when you finish.” — Wayne Martin, Birmingham News, retired