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Thurs 6/20 8:15pm: WRKF's FM/HD broadcasts are operating with reduced power due to an equipment fault. Online listening is unaffected.

As MLB incorporates Negro League stats, dig deeper into Black baseball history with new podcast, ‘Road to Rickwood’

Source: Willie's Boys/John Klima

On May 29, Major League Baseball announced it’s officially changing some long-held records to include Negro League statistics. Josh Gibson, who played most notably for the Homestead Grays in a career that lasted from 1930-46, is now credited as having the highest career batting average. And Satchel Paige, former pitcher for the Birmingham Black Barons, takes the record for third lowest earned run average in a single season.

While Birmingham is often remembered as one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the Civil Rights Movement, it's also a city where baseball was once king. Home to Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the country, the city has seen segregated baseball, Negro League baseball, a women’s suffrage event, a Klan rally and eventually, the first integrated sports team in Alabama.

On June 20, Major League Baseball will host a regular season game at Rickwood as part of continued efforts to honor Negro League history. In the lead-up, “Road to Rickwood”podcast host Roy Wood Jr. returns to his hometown of Birmingham to tell the story of this legendary ballpark. In the first episode, we learn how Rickwood uplifted Black and white communities from the beginning, while also enforcing segregation.

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This episode was written and produced by Ben Dickstein and hosted by Roy Wood Jr.Our executive producer is Alana Schreiber and our senior producer is Ben Dickstein. Our producers are Jonah Buchanan and AL.com’s Cody D. Short. Mixing and sound design by Joaquin Cotler and story editing by Ryan Vasquez. Artwork by Xavier Murillo. Original music composition by Squeak E. Clean Studios. Voice tracking by Alt Mix Studio.

Special thanks to Paul Maassen, The Friends of Rickwood Field, Birmingham Public Library archives, AL.com and WBHM.

For more stories on Rickwood Field, check out https://www.al.com/rickwood-field/

This podcast is a production of WWNO and WRKF. It’s distributed by the NPR Network. Support comes from Major League Baseball, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Explore St. Louis.

Alana Schreiber is the creator and executive producer of Road to Rickwood. She’s a lifelong baseball fan who’s been fascinated by the Negro Leagues ever since she did her fourth grade history project on Buck O’Neil. As an NPR reporter and producer, she’s sought out stories about the Negro Leagues all across the country – they’re never hard to find.