Take Me Out
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Art Black is a Birmingham author and historian who has long had a love for the oldest ballpark in America, Rickwood Field. His third book on the subject, “At Bat,” draws from personal experiences he had watching future greats of the game get their start in baseball in Birmingham. But, Art’s work is only a part of an ongoing effort to preserve the memory and insure the future of a famous field.
“Rickwood was built in 1910, so it celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 2010, and they had an event out here, and at that point I said, ‘I want to write a book about Rickwood Field,’” says Black the author the book on America’s oldest ballpark.
From here, many went on to play in places like Oakland, Chicago, Yankee Stadium, but for many of the greats, their roots run to Rickwood.
“I was present when the big stars came through, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Gene Tenace, Vida Blue. We did one book from the early 1900′s, but you know one book leads to a second book, and then I realized if I wrote a third book, I could cover the entire history of Rickwood Field. Many of the ball players in the third book are players I saw play at Rickwood Field,” remembers Art.
While Black works to preserve memories of Rickwood Field through his research and writing, David Wininger and the Friends of Rickwood work to preserve the park itself. “I can remember still the first time I walked in here. It was a night game, and the lights were on, and this grass was greener than it is now, and it’s pretty green right now. I’ve got the same memory the first time I walked into Yankee Stadium. That green grass.”
Head Groundskeeper Jabreil Weir makes sure the grass stays green and the stadium stays alive. “Groundskeeper at Rickwood takes care of the whole facility, the entire facility. Not just the playing surface. The restrooms, locker rooms, everything here. The field is my pride and joy. The only problems I really have is just too much rain. Can’t get the games in cause it’s too much rain.”
Teams still play here through the summer on the surface, which is Jabriel’s pride and joy. And The Friends of Rickwood are working to be sure you’ll be hearing “Play Ball” here for another 100 years.
“I think it would be a terrible tragedy for the city and for the state of Alabama for us to lose this place. Rickwood might be the Field Of Dreams without the corn,” Wininger says with a smile.
Jabreil agrees, “This is baseball. Without Rickwood you probably wouldn’t have baseball.”
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