Archive for June 10th, 2009

Barons vs. Braves – Attended Game #6 (5/27/09)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

The Field

Rickwood Classic
Barons 2, Braves 3

Two weeks ago, I traveled with my Dad to Birmingham, Alabama to attend The 14th Annual Rickwood Classic. The event, as Apryl mentioned in the previous post, takes place once a year at historic Rickwood Field, the oldest operating ballpark in the United States. Rickwood Field, which opened in 1910, has been the home park for the Birmingham Barons since 1910 and was the home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro League from 1920 until 1963. Some of the legends of the game that have graced the field include Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Reggie Jackson. And despite the fact that the current Barons left Rickwood over twenty years ago for the suburbs, the park (thankfully) still lives in the past. Check out the historic marker outside the ballpark:

RIckwood Field Historic Marker

As you can see, Rickwood Field takes great pride in being the “oldest surviving baseball park in America.” Now, I suppose I should tell you that there are others making claims to the oldest ballpark. One of these is Labatt Park in Ontario, Canada, which has a baseball history that dates back to 1877. Of course, Canada is not America, so Rickwood’s claims are still true. Fuller Field, in Clinton, Mass., on the other hand, states it has held a baseball field since 1870. However, I would argue that while Labatt Prark and Fuller Field are both historic places, they are baseball fields as opposed to a baseball park like Rickwood. So, in my book, Rickwood holds the record!

Alright, let’s get to the game. The first pitch was supposed to be thrown at noon, so we left Memphis early in the morning. We gave ourselves way more time than we needed and arrived at the ballpark around 10:30 am. While we were driving there, I was thinking what a shame it was that the Barons only play one game a season at Rickwood. I mean, why did they have to leave for the suburbs in the first place? Well, when we arrived at the park, making our way through a dicey neighborhood, it begin to make sense. Still, you can’t beat character like Rickwood with a ballpark named Regions Park.

When I first heard about the Rickwood Classic, I read about how the players dress up in period uniforms for the game. However, when we got there, the teams on the field were in modern uniforms. Well, the Braves’ uniforms did seem a bit outdated but hardly vintage. As it turns out, the Braves were playing in 1982 replicas. So, a step back in time but not as far as I would have liked. Still, I found out later that every year the teams pick different periods. So, that’s nice.

Rickwood stands

Seating was general admission. We grabbed seats on the first base line with minimal obstructions and took in the first pitch, which actually took place closer to 1 o’clock. Our view of the game below:

Our view

As always, I have to get a shot of my hot dog. A Barons’ hot dog is a grilled dog with mustard and sauerkraut. A Barons’ dog is also yummy!

barons hot dog

One of the highlights of the game was getting to see Gordon Beckham. Beckham, who was a stand out at the University of Georgia and took them to the College World Series, has been seen as a future super star for the White Sox organization. The Rickwood Classic turned out to be Beckham’s last game with the Barons as he was immediately promoted to Triple A in Charlotte and then about a week later to the White Sox.

Gordon Beckham

While Beckham didn’t get a hit during the game, he did walk twice and scored one of the Barons’ two runs for the day. Another future Sox hopeful is catcher Tyler Flowers. Unfortunately, Flowers didn’t start the game, though we did get to see him pinch hit in the 9th inning:

Tyler Swings

He lined out to first. Oh well.

One of the funniest things that happened during the game was when a foul ball popped up and smashed one of the lights over the Barons’ dugout. Below, a view of the classic night lights:

lights

The broken glass fell directly on top of the Baron’s dugout and had to be swept up during the next inning by the grounds crew. Not quite The Natural.

Ground crew

Another thing that was funny was how the Barons would sit on top of their dugout instead of sitting inside. I’m guessing it was too hot in there.

on top of dugout

One of the craziest moments of the game was the folks on the rooftop. Now, I don’t think folks were really supposed to be hanging out on the roof, but they weren’t being sent away. Actually, it was a great place to catch foul balls, so there were quite a few kids up there. And the view was amazing. The photo at the top of this post was taken from the rooftop. Of course I went up there!

the roof

As the game progressed, we moved around the park to experience different views of the game. My favorite was our spot in the ninth, where we sat right next to the far right field. As soon as we were sitting down in our seats, we saw a Braves’ homer over the right field wall. The next batter hit it right over the right fielder’s head, bouncing it off the wall, making a loud smack that was quite glorious.

outfield wall

The Braves ended up scoring two runs in the ninth inning, which was enough to win the game. After the game, the fans were allowed on the field. I love this. What a wonderful move by the Barons’ organization!

after game on field

Check out the wonderful scoreboard that is operated by a human filling in the numbers.

scoreboard

Of course, the best part of the game was just being with my Dad. I never dreamed we would get to see two ballgames in one season. Next year, it will be the 100th anniversary of Rickwood Field. We already have plans for making it back!

Dad and I

Oh, I forgot to post this short, shaky video of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”