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MLB at Rickwood Field: Cardinals top Giants in star-studded affair that paid homage to the late Willie Mays

SportsMLB at Rickwood Field: Cardinals top Giants in star-studded affair that paid homage to the late Willie Mays


Major League Baseball made history on Thursday, when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the San Francisco Giants 6-5 (box score) in the league’s first ever game at historic Rickwood Field. For the uninitiated, Rickwood Field predates Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, and is located in Birmingham, Alabama, where it once hosted the Negro League’s Black Barons.

The timing of the game was both poetic and sad, as baseball returned to Rickwood Field just two days after Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays died at age 93. Mays began his professional career at Rickwood Field, as a member of the Black Barons. He later signed with the Giants.

Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s game. 

1. Mays honored before the game

In the wake of Mays’ death, MLB used the occasion to pay tribute to Mays’ life and career. His signature No. 24 was painted behind the plate, and his son Michael was accompanied onto the field by Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. Michael Mays told the crowd that his father had found a “different way” to attend the game, resulting in the fans chanting “Willie” ahead of the national anthem.

One of Mays’ former Barons teammates, Bill Greason, delivered the ceremonial first pitch. Greason was the first Black pitcher in Cardinals history, appearing in three games for the 1954 squad.

The Giants were wearing a Mays patch on their jerseys, which paid homage to the Negro League’s San Francisco Sea Lions. (The Cardinals, conversely, wore uniforms modeled after the St. Louis Stars.)

2. Elite audience

In addition to Bonds and Griffey Jr., a slew of other important people were in attendance at Rickwood Field. That included Commissioner Rob Manfred and special assistant Joe Torre; former All-Stars like Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols, and CC Sabathia; and Negro League Hall of Fame president Bob Kendrick, who regaled the broadcast audience with stories about Negro League legends from the past, ranging from Satchel Paige to Oscar Charleston to Josh Gibson.

3. Donovan has big night back home

Cardinals infielder/outfielder Brendan Donovan, who attended high school in Mobile and later played at the University of South Alabama, had a huge outing in his return to the state. Donovan went 3-for-4 with his seventh home run and a double, plating three runs in the process. 

Nolan Gorman drove in a pair of runs of his own, both on sacrifice flys, and Alec Burleson scored the other run, scampering across the plate on a wild pitch.

4. Ramos stays on a tear

Meanwhile, on the Giants’ side of the ledger, center fielder Heliot Ramos continued his tear. He came into Thursday hitting .310/.388/.545 (171 OPS+) with nine home runs and 32 RBI over the course of 38 games. Ramos launched a three-run shot in the third inning to knot the game at 3-3. 

Wilmer Flores and Nick Ahmed would later pitch in a run apiece in the losing effort.

5. Yastrzemski leaves with side tightness 

The Giants were unable to escape Thursday’s game without an injury. Starting right fielder Mike Yastrzemski exited after an at-bat because of tightness in his left side, according to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. Yastrzemski came into Thursday night hitting .220/.300/.403 (105 OPS+) with seven home runs, 10 additional extra-base hits, and 1.5 Wins Above Replacement in 66 games.

The Giants and Cardinals will resume their series on Saturday in St. Louis.





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