Despite what Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, or even Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana say, Rickwood Field in Birmingham is America’s oldest baseball stadium.
Opened in 1910 it is in amazingly similar look and condition to the day it was opened.
While it is no longer used regularly for the minor league Birmingham Barons, it still sees some use with a tribute game by the Barons, as well as other use.
Most frequently it is used as a movie set for retro baseball movies, as well as local colleges.
As you enter the stadium you are greeted with old entry gates, not metal detectors.
The lineups are written on a chalkboard.
Going into the box seats you have a fence surrounding the home plate area for protection from foul balls.
The seats are still all wood, not plastic.
For most a large roof protects you from the hot Alabama summer sun.
Looking down the stands towards the press box. The original press box was a tiny 4 person booth on the roof, but this one was added for a period piece movie and it was left as it is more functional.
We were permitted to go onto the perfectly manicured field to check it out. The center field fence seems far away from here.
Also note how much foul ground there is behind home plate – many would be foul balls likely turn into outs here.
Looking down first base toward right field show the unusual cantilevered light towers.
Left field is similar, with a ‘batting barn’ built further off to the left.
A view from home plate back towards the stands again show the foul territory.
Despite it’s minimal use, they keep the field in perfect condition.
The view of the right field stands are far longer than those along left field. When this stadium was built in 1910 Forbes Field in Pittsburgh had just been completed as the standard in stadium design, and the architects here used essentially the same design – albeit with much less seating than the major league stadium.
As we make our way into the outfield you can see the advertising along the outfield fence. This was a common practice in the early 1900s, and the advertising that is there is either period advertising, or new companies with the ads made to look period correct.
The scoreboard has been restored to the early 1900s look, with the scorekeeping done manually.
The teams listed would be those from the 1930s – Atlanta is still in the Southern League, and Brooklyn still has the Dodgers.
Birmingham is happy to see you.
Even the Vulcan is present.
The ads are very cool.
Another sign of the history of the south – there were all white teams, and all black teams. Rickwood Field hosted both Birmingham teams.
This practice ended in the 1950s.
The right field stands.
Rickwood Field is easily one of the best baseball ‘park’s I have ever seen. While it has been made retro for Hollywood , it really works nicely.
Our first road trip of the year was on a very cold Saturday with a run down to Cincinnati. First stop was the KOI Cavalcade of Cars Show at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Fortunately, we were there very early and were able to get a parking space literally next to the bridge from the garage into the convention center. Winter shows like this are always tricky in deciding if you want to freeze on the walk in or cook at the show, depending on what jacket you wear. With the close parking, we could easily make a run for it in just a light jacket, despite being 10 degrees.
There were hundreds of custom cars across the main floor, as well as a secondary hall. In addition to the individually owned cars, they had cars from the movie Fast and Furious, hundreds of vendor booths, and a few local celebrities like Ickey Woods
In the back corner of the main floor they had a demonstration area where a group of guys were literally chopping an old car, cutting off the roof, lower the pillars, and reattaching the roof.
After a few hours we were done with the show, and decided it was time for lunch. Our choice was Camp Washington Chili, a Cincinnati chili parlor founded in 1940. A well known Cincinnati landmark, it was moved to the current location in the 2000, with the new location modeled after a 1950s-style diner. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day every day but Sunday. The chili served by the restaurant has won numerous awards and in 2011 was featured on Man Versus Food.
The building next to the parking lot had a 4 floor mural of George Washington Organized like a painting in a frame, it features George Washington in drag — a campy sensibility — with a decorative hat, rouged cheeks, a big pearl necklace and a ruffled yellow dress with a low bust line revealing a hint of cleavage.
Within the mural’s picture plane are some flying pigs, a metal robot and a gorilla that is holding up the letter “Y” at the end of the painted word “CAMP.” The mural is a (slightly forced) visual pun. The pigs and cow are references to the stockyards and meatpacking plants once along Spring Grove Avenue.
Just up the street from Camp Washington Chili is the American Sign Museum, which preserves, archives, and displays a collection of signs. Opened in 2005 the museum also displays the equipment utilized in the design and manufacture of signs.
Over 200 signs and other objects are on display at the museum. The collection ranges from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Highlights of the collection include samples of gold leaf lettering on glass, a Sputnik like plastic orb from a California shopping center, a rotating neon windmill from a Denver donut shop, Las Vegas showcards, and a fiberglass Frisch’s Big Boy statue with a slingshot in his pocket.
Also included are from businesses such as Big Bear Stores, Howard Johnson’s and Earl Scheib. Over the museum’s entrance, visitors are greeted by a 20-foot-tall fiberglass genie from a Los Angeles carpet cleaning company. In 2008, the museum acquired a single-arch 1963 McDonald’s sign from Huntsville, Alabama. The sign features McDonald’s Speedee character, who was phased out in favor of Ronald McDonald in the 1960s.
The museum is set in an old industrial area, giving it an authentic feel. We highly recommend a visit to the American Sign Museum.