I was personally delighted when the grants committee of the Alabama Humanities Foundation recently provided funding for a baseball program developed by Vulcan Park and Museum. “From Factory to Field” is an exhibition, opening April 1, 2010, that celebrates the 100th anniversary of Rickwood Field and the history of baseball as a reflection of the social changes in Birmingham. It consists of: emergence of baseball in Birmingham; industrial league play; segregated professional baseball in Birmingham; desegregation of baseball; and the modern-day Barons.
The affirmative vote by our grants committee to fund this project caused me to reflect about the national pastime with a different look. Baseball is loaded with many things associated with the humanities. The story telling is legendary. Names like Dizzy, Yogi, Country, Duke, Say Hey, Scooter, Jolton Joe, Red, Lefty, Smoky, Moose, Catfish, The Hat and Cool Papa help make the stories larger than life. I could go on and on with other names like Pee Wee, The Lip and Charlie Hustle. Of course, there’s Frank “Pig” House from Bessemer, who was recently enshrined in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
And about history… The ultimate headliner, of course, would include Branch Rickey and the signing in 1948 of a second baseman by the Brooklyn Dodgers of a guy named Jackie Robinson. The breaking of the color barrier in the Major Leagues not only changed baseball, but an entire nation.
The tradition of baseball is unmatched. The old ballparks are sacred with some gone like the Polo Grounds in New York, Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. Some still live on like the nation’s oldest, Rickwood Field in Birmingham. It is a timeless game in so many ways.
Alabama has been blessed more than any state with baseball legends. Names like Aaron and Mays, Sewell, Walker are immortal. And calling the games was the greatest of all time, Bessemer’s Mel Allen.
When you have a moment, click on the Encyclopedia of Alabama baseball players of Alabama gallery and look at all the great stories on baseball in our state.
Written by: Paul L.