Mays Honored as Cards Win at Rickwood Field

Former Negro League Players Reminisce About the Past

Date: Jun 21, 2024
Author: Michael Terry
Topics: 2024 Bowman Chrome Prospects, Baseball, Bill Greason, Birmingham, Birmingham Barons, Black Barons, Education, Michael Terry, MLB, News, Rickwood Field, Willie Mays
Length: 293 Words
Reading Time: ~2 Minutes

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the San Francisco Giants 6-5 on Thursday in what was a great game and even greater night at America’s oldest ballpark, Rickwood Field, in Birmingham, Alabama. The game was the showpiece of MLB’s three-night tribute to the Negro Leagues. While the game did not disappoint, it was everything surrounding the event that made the occasion historic and moving.

The pregame ceremonies were truly special. Dozens of living Negro League players took to the field to be honored by an adoring crowd. The oldest among them, 99-year-old pitcher Bill Greason, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The choice was perfect. Not only the first Black pitcher in Cardinals’ history, Greason fought in Iwo Jima during World War II, grew up across the street from Martin Luther King Jr., and mentored a young Willie Mays when both played for the Birmingham Black Barons.

Indeed, the spirit of Willie Mays was everywhere at Rickwood Field yesterday. Having passed on Tuesday, Mays was remembered throughout. His Hall of Fame plaque was placed in the stadium. A moving speech from Mays’ son, Michael, who said: “His presence was with us.” Chants of “Willie” ringing out. Giants president Larry Baer summed it up. “He (Mays) was so excited about all of us coming to Birmingham and Rickwood, and in many ways it happened. This is the full circle moment. He started here, and we’re all here to honor him. We wish we could have done it more recently than 76 years, but we did it. We finally did it. It’s a beautiful thing coming together.”

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