Jerry Summers: Rickwood And Engel Stadiums

  • Monday, June 17, 2024
  • Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

The words of wisdom spoken by sportswriter (RS) a former Chattanooga Lookouts bat boy and Engel Stadium Foundation Executive Director (JJ) have all reported numerous times as to what a loss the destruction of the historic baseball facility will eventually be.

Whether Joe Engel’s 1930s creation goes to Erlanger Medical Center, or one of the politically connected developers who love to tear down the past history of the Scenic City, is beyond the scope of this article.

Birmingham and Chattanooga share a lot of baseball history.

On Thursday, the major league National Leagues teams San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals will play a regular season game in historic Rickwood field in the Magic City.

Initially built in 1910, it is the oldest professional baseball park in the United States and was home to the minor league Birmingham Barons and the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues who played alternate weekends in the stadium because of Jim Crow segregation laws.

Whereas Rickwood Field has been preserved as a “museum” where baseball history can be preserved, Engel Stadium, built in 1930, lies deserted and awaits its destruction by demolition crews.

Both share the distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but unfortunately, the similarity ends there.

(With the recent specific unidentified expansion plans of the oldest major medical facility in Hamilton County, the vacant baseball temple is a tempting and obvious target!)

Babe Ruth, Pie Traynor, Roger Hornsby, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Josh Gibson, Dizzy Dean, etc. are just a few Hall of Famers who played at one or both parks.

The June 20 game between the two major league squads will be a part of the month long celebration that will recognize the contribution of the above and many more members of the National League and Negro Baseball Leagues.

The significance of the date has best been addressed by 92-year-old legend Willie Mays in a statement recently released documented that he had been a 17-year-old shortstop for the Birmingham Black Barons at Engel Stadium 75 years ago.

Mr. Mays died on Tuesday. He was to be honored at a game on Thursday.

The Birmingham community stepped up to the plate and saved Rickwood Field from destruction to allow present use as a black baseball museum and local playing field for high school and other amateur teams.

Chattanooga finally gave up on the “Barnum of the Bushes” lifetime contributions and the field will eventually become another victim of progress.

(Fox News at 7 p.m. EST is the announced “play ball” television start by Major League Baseball if former fans and players in the Knothole Gang are still awake.)

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