MLB Celebrates Willie Mays and Negro Leagues Excellence, But Masyn Winn Was The Only Black Player To Touch Rickwood Field

The MLB game at Rickwood Field was a star-studded event with deep historical significance. 

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the San Francisco Giants 6-5 at Rickwood Field, the oldest professional baseball park in America. (Photo: MLBbro Images)

The baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants was an historic event as baseball honored and celebrated the rich and often overlooked history of the Negro leagues at America’s oldest professional park, honoring the great Willie Mays who recently passed away at 93.

For the second consecutive year the Cardinals hosted a regular-season home game outside of St. Louis as the Red Birds and Giants began their six-game season series on Thursday night in Alabama.

MLB Network crew prepares for live telecast of MLB game at Rickwood Field honoring the legendary Willie Mayes. (Photo: MLBbro Images)

Celebration Of Black Baseball History and Willie Mays

Thirty percent of the 346 players inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame have played a game at Rickwood, which includes 17 notable Cardinals. Among them is Willie McGee, who played at Rickwood for the AA Yankees affiliate.

The first Black players to appear on any St. Louis World Series championship teams were Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Bill White, and Curt Flood. They helped win the 1964 World Series over the New York Yankees.

Among other notable Black players in St. Louis Cardinals baseball history of course is Leroy Robert Satchel Paige. The MLBbro icon pitched for the St. Louis Browns from 1951 to 1953 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

Inside the locker rooms in the old clubhouse at Rickwood Field, the oldest pro ballpark in America. It was home to the Birmingham Barons of the Negro Leagues (Photo:

Satchel Paige and Rich History Of Black Excellence with Cardinals

Paige, a right-handed pitcher, dominated Negro Leagues baseball and played in Major League Baseball for nearly five decades.

Paige became one of the most famous successful players after Bill Veeck became owner of the Cleveland Indians and signed the rookie to his first major league contract in 1948, making him the seventh black player in the big leagues to that point.

That season, Paige became the first player from the Negro Leagues to pitch in the World Series. Bill White, who eventually became the first and only Black National League President, became the first Cardinals African-American All-Star in 1959. White was a perennial All-Star and was a member of the 1964 World Series champions. 

MLB Stars Of Today and Yesterday At Rickwood Park

There were plenty of legends in attendance.

Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr., now considered the two greatest living Black MLB players, were mingling with fans and interacting with former teammates and current players.

The clock on the manual scoreboard at Rickwood Field was fixed to 8:24 in honor of Mays, who wore No. 8 as a member of the Black Barons in 1948 and 24 during his time with the New York and San Francisco Giants, where he hit 660 homers.

The Cardinals won the game 6-5, but as CC Sabathia told Martin Weiss, an Ebony Magazine correspondent:

“This event is incredible and necessary. I didn’t understand the significance of baseball and why it was so important to my father and his father until I discovered the stories of the Negro League and discovered baseball was just as much our culture as anybody else’s.”

NY Yankees Black Ace CC Sabathia says he began to get a deeper understanding of his love for baseball when he learned about the Negro Leagues. (Photo: Grubb)

While the game celebrated Willie Mays and the great Black players in history — and features the first all-black umpire crew in MLB history — unfortunately the game featured just one Black player. 

The first All-Black umpire crew in MLB history were on the field for the historical game at Rickwood Field on June 20, 2024. (Photo: MLBbro Images/Cameron Jade)

First All-Black Umpire Crew In MLB History

St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Masyn Winn was the lone Black representative in the game as San Francisco Giants player Lamonte Wade Jr. was out nursing a nagging injury.

St. Louis Cardinals rookie shortstop Masyn Winn is carrying on a tradition of St. Louis Cardinals Black excellence at the position, beginning with Ozzie Smith. (Photo: MLBbro Images/Cameron Jade)

Overall, it was a festive event with many of the Negro Leagues player who are still living attending in wheelchairs but finally getting their flowers on a large stage.  

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