Rickwood—the most popular ball park in minor league baseball from 1948 to 1951.
In the 1950s, families stayed home or engaged in leisure activities such as boating, bowling, driving their cars, going to movies, spending weekends at the river. Interest in minor league baseball began a long, slow decline. By the early 1980s, Rickwood Field was in decay. Steel rusted and concrete crumbled. Faulty wiring, poor plumbing, inadequate parking, and fear of crime stopped the crowds from coming. In 1988, the Barons moved to suburban Hoover, leaving behind the ghosts of Mathewson, Ruth, Cobb, Paige, Hornsby, Caldwell, and Dean. Many thought the gates of Rickwood would be shuttered forever. However, the Friends of Rickwood, a group of baseball purists, rescued and saved the park. In 1996, the Barons came back to Rickwood for a “turn back the clock” game and beat the Memphis Chicks, 3–2. They continue to play this Rickwood Classic every year. Rickwood also hosts up to two hundred events annually: high school and college games, tournaments, men’s and youth travel ball, scout and instructional camps, and corporate events. People have visited Rickwood from nearly every state in the union and from many foreign countries.
Through the years, the grand old ball parks of America have fallen, one by one, until today Rickwood stands alone. It is the country’s oldest ball park, older than Boston’s Fenway Park. Rickwood Field is more than a century old. Yet this national treasure is open most every weekday, inviting any fan to walk its grounds.