San Francisco Giants to play at Alabama's historic Rickwood Field in tribute to Willie Mays, Negro Leagues

Major League Baseball announced the San Francisco Giants will play the St. Louis Cardinals at Alabamas historic Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the country. The game will be played on June 20, 2024. (Jason S. McCrory/The Rampant Lion Photography)

The San Francisco Giants will face the St. Louis Cardinals at the oldest professional ballpark in the country, the historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., as part of a special tribute game to baseball legend Willie Mays and the Negro Leagues, in which the "Say Hey Kid" began his illustrious career. 

Major League Baseball (MLB) made the announcement on Tuesday, exactly one year ahead of the June 20, 2024 game. FOX will have exclusive national coverage of the regular season matchup, which will be carried on KTVU FOX 2.  

MLB said that the event was scheduled to fall around Juneteenth to honor the Negro Leagues and "its greatest living player." 

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The 92-year-old Mays, who began his career at just age 16 with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League, marveled over what a significant moment it will be for him.  

"I never thought I’d see in my lifetime a Major League Baseball game being played on the very field where I played baseball as a teenager," the Hall of Famer and Giants legend said. "It has been 75 years since I played for the Birmingham Black Barons at Rickwood Field, and to learn that my Giants and the Cardinals will play a game there and honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and all those who came before them is really emotional for me."

MLB said the event would give opportunity to share the stories of the Negro Leagues, highlighting the importance of the leagues' history as part of the present and future of professional baseball. 

"Preserving the legacy of the Negro Leagues is vital to growing baseball’s diversity and popularity," said MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark, adding, "Willie Mays, like so many other Negro Leaguers, broke down barriers and paved the way for those of us who dreamt of playing baseball at the highest level. This event helps to link the past, present and future and helps further the cause of attracting a new generation of players to our game.’’

Leading up to the historic game, MLB said it will work with the Friends of Rickwood and the City of Birmingham to renovate the baseball field. 

Rickwood will also host a Minor League game between the Birmingham Barons and the Montgomery Biscuits two days prior to the Giants and Cardinal matchup, MLB said.

Historic Rickwood Field will host the Giants and Cardinals in a tribute game on June 20, 2024, honoring Willie Mays and the Negro Leagues. (Friends of Rickwood)

"The history of Rickwood Field is unmatched," the league said, noting some of baseball's greatest players took to its hallowed grounds. In addition to Mays, the long list of legends to play there included Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and Willie Wells.

Rickwood, which opened in 1910, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Birmingham Black Barons called it its home from 1924 through 1960. Mays started his professional career with the team in 1948 before going to the MLB to play with the New York Giants in 1951. 

The baseball icon said next year's game will give opportunity to look back at the Negro Leagues’ impact. "We can’t forget what got us here and that was the Negro Leagues for so many of us," Mays reflected.

KTVU will air the game on Thursday, June 20, 2024 at 4 p.m.

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.