One of the brothers retrieved a foul ball off the bat of the great Bambino himself, Babe Ruth. Some retellings of the story distantly removed from the original event would include details about the scramble of youngsters clamoring for the ball. At family gatherings decades later, the brothers would kid each other about if they still had that ball how much it would be worth, in sentimentality if nothing else and in actual dollars with any demonstrated provenance. In hindsight, they knew that there are those who would put a hard-won trophy like that in a case on a shelf.
But this was the Depression. And this was a BASEBALL. A real one. And a real baseball didn’t belong on a shelf. They played baseball with it until it fell apart.
Rickwood Field, the oldest baseball park in the country, turns 100 today. Older than Fenway. Older than Wrigley.
As mentioned, the icon Babe Ruth played there. Home run champion Hank Aaron too. Teenager Willie Mays calling his Dad off fly balls before he became a baseball Giant. Jackie Robinson when he was a KC Monarch and not yet a trailblazer. Satchel Paige, perhaps more remembered for his advice like, “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you” than for being the great pitcher he was. Reggie Jackson before he was Mr. October. Legendary Cool Papa Bell who was said to be so fast that he was once hit by a line drive off his own bat as he slid into second. Dizzy Dean. The Georgia Peach, Teddy Ballgame, and the Yankee Clipper. Or Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, and Joe Dimaggio (whom I once met, a detail I rarely fail to bring up at the mention of his name, but that is another story).Football fans aren’t left out of the history as Auburn and Alabama played football there. So did Birmingham-Southern College and Samford back when it was Howard.
More info (and mentions about some of the players above that I had not known played at Rickwood) can be found here at the Rickwood Field website, in this New York Times story, and here in Baseball America’s book review of Allen Barra’s Rickwood Field.
The party starts at 3 (game time 100 years ago today), and a shortened exhibition game is scheduled from 4:30 to 6. Admission is free.