The little-known Jewish history of America’s oldest pro baseball park

Players sit atop of the dugout on Rickwood Field. (Flickr/Creative Commons)

You may not be familiar with Rickwood Field, America’s oldest baseball field. It isn’t used by any Major League Baseball teams. It’s not even regularly used by the team it was built for, the Minor League Birmingham Barons in Alabama. But it’s still standing—more of a working museum than a proper field, hosting occasional games and special events, preserving the sport’s complicated history.

That will change on June 20, 2024, when the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants face off at Rickwood to commemorate Juneteenth, in honour of the field’s status during the Negro leagues. The field will undergo intense renovations and updates in preparation for media attention unlike any it has seen in more than a century, telling stories of the many historical figures involved in its creation—including several key Jews, such as team owner Abe Saperstein and Yankees announcer Mel Allen.

One person helping to share these stories with modern audiences is Alana Schreiber, a producer with New Orleans Public Radio. She’s spearheading a new radio documentary called Road to Rickwood, produced by NPR with help from the MLB, and hosted by comedian Roy Wood Jr. A longtime listener of Menschwarmers, Schreiber joins to discuss the project and all the complex Jewish themes within.

Credits

Menschwarmers is hosted by James Hirsh and Gabe Pulver, and produced and edited by Michael Fraiman. Our intro music is by Coby Lipovitch, and our outro music is “Organ Grinder Swing” by chēēZ π. This show is a member of The CJN Podcast Network. Follow the Menschwarmers on Twitter @menschwarmers or TikTok @menschwarmers. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast or donating to The CJN.