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Giants and Cardinals Throw It Back for Rickwood Game

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Good Friday morning Uni Watchers. We made it!

Last night, the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals met in the first regular-season MLB game ever played at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, the site where the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues played for nearly four decades. Officially billed as “MLB at Rickwood Field: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues,” the game paid homage to the stadium’s deep history not just as a Negro Leagues park, but as a key cog in baseball history. It was also a tribute to the life and legacy of Willie Mays, who passed away at the age of 93 on Tuesday.

The Cards and Giants, of course, wore Negro League throwback uniforms, which we’ll get to in a minute. The made-for-TV spectacle was as good as advertised, and certainly rivaled the two “Field of Dreams” games played in Iowa in 2021 and 2022. Like those games, in which throwbacks were also worn, this was as much about the locale as the teams, and with the passing of the Say Hey Kid earlier this week, it was both sad and joyful.

One of the stars of the show was the locale itself: Rickwood Field. It is the oldest professional ballpark in the United States. It opened in 1910 and was the home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues from 1924-1960.

The park has gone through several renovations over the years, and most recently was brought up to “major league standards.” But it still features many old-timey features, including a lot of old-school advertising lining the field and outfield walls. (Although there were some decidedly “modern” ads as well.)

Rickwood Field was modeled after Forbes Field in Pittsburgh when it was constructed. As mentioned above, one of the teams that called Rickwood home was the Birmingham Black Barons — the team for whom a teenaged Willie Mays played. For more information on the ballpark, click here. Mays played centerfield for the Black Barons in 1948 as they played in the final Negro League World Series. He’d go on to play two more seasons for the Barons before briefly playing for the Minneapolis Millers (35 games in 1951) and then making his debut with the Giants in the 1951 season.

But this is Uni Watch, so let’s turn our attention now to the throwbacks worn by both teams. We knew ahead of time what uniforms each team would be wearing. (Unfortunately, neither team wore a true throwback, as neither the Giants — playing as the San Francisco Sea Lions — nor the Cardinals — playing as the St. Louis Stars — wore period-correct caps. But that’s a minor quibble for a game like this.)

The Giants were wearing Sea Lions throwbacks from 1946. The SF Sea Lions played only one season in the West Coast Negro Baseball League in 1946. Despite being the away team, the Giants wore an off-white (home) uniform, but batted first.

There are a couple interesting details here. First, the Giants (as well as the Cardinals) wore jerseys that are NOT in the current Nike template — the placket is noticeably wider than the new cut, and the MLB logo is above the headspoon on the back of the jersey.

I have to think the Giants (and Cardinals) were wearing “new old stock” as they have worn these uniforms as throwbacks in the past. However, the pants were in the new 2024 template. You can tell by the diagonal cuts in the belt tunnels (and note the placement of the MLB logo on the back of the neck).

Both teams, unfortunately, sullied the uniforms by wearing ads. But — in what I guess is a cool move — the Giants swapped out their normal ad patch for a retro one.

Also disappointingly, very few players went high cuffed. Those who did looked miles better than those who did not. Both teams also went NNOB.

The Giants also had custom batting helmets (featuring a “Cub” which was also on their uniform and cap).

If you’re curious as to why a team named the “Sea Lions” have a bear for a logo, it’s because the team purchased the uniforms from a defunct semi-pro baseball team named the San Francisco Cubs.

The home team, the St. Louis Cardinals, wore a grey uniform that reads “St. Louis” across the chest. The uniform is an homage to the St. Louis Stars Negro Leagues team that played from 1906-31. The hat is blue and has the city initials of “StL” written on it. Despite wearing gray (road) uniforms, the Cardinals batted last. The specific date attributed to the uniform is 1921, although Cardinals uniform historian Oliver Kodner disputes the authenticity.

Like the Giants, very few of the St. Louis players went high cuffed, but those who did showed off some fantastic socks.

And like the Giants, the Cardinals uniforms were NNOB.

Both teams wore a “MAYS 24” memorial patch.

In what I believe is also an MLB first, all four umpires were Black.

It would have been fantastic if the umpires had worn throwback uniforms, but they did have caps with a special Rickwood patch.

All things considered, it was a beautiful game to watch (even if the uniforms weren’t “perfect”), and the setting couldn’t have been more beautiful.

As darkness began to fall, the sky was glorious, and the old light towers were silhouetted perfectly (those lights no longer work, but they’ve kept the structures in place). A full moon over the scoreboard was a fitting visual.

You can see hundreds of photos here.

Readers? What say you?

Thanks to Mike Bilder for the throwback ads screengrabs!



Guess the Game from the Scoreboard

Guess The Game…

…From The Scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from David Wemple.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date and location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.



Guess the Game from the Uniform

Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.

Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.

Today’s GTGFTU comes from Charlie St. Stephen.

Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.



Uni Tweet of the Day



And finally...

…that’s it for the early lede. I should have at least one or two more articles today, plus Anthony’s Ticker — so be sure to keep checking back.

It’s been a while since I closed with one of these…

Everyone have a good Friday and a better weekend.

And be sure to check in on Monday, as I have a very special announcement — a new Uni Watch design contest in which first prize is a cash prize of $1,500, plus roundtrip airfare to Honolulu, and a chance to see the winning design worn. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now, but you’re not going to want to miss this one, I promise.



Comments (48)

    Pajama pants or biker shorts. Not sure which is the bigger disgrace. Sadly, both are here to stay.

    Definitely one of those instances where a throwback game is like a City Connect game. You walk into a bar or restaurant with the game on and the sound down and you wouldn’t know who’s playing without the score bug.
    And in both cases, that’s not necessarily a bad thing… every once in a while.
    While I may be softening just a bit on the CC program, last night’s game looked better.

    The betting ad on the outfield fence bothered me more than the retro Chevy ad on the jerseys.

    The complete saturation of betting ads across all sports media and leagues is disgusting. It really turns me off from watching sports. I’m not against sports betting per say, but there is no way teams and leagues should be allowed to take ad dollars from sportsbooks, or that the sportsbooks should even be allowed to air commercials during telecasts. And it is only partially an integrity of the game thing, there is also the fact that people get hooked on gambling very easily, it is astounding how quickly we’ve moved into full embrace of gambling once billionaire team owners could start cashing in on it.

    I know I’m late, but the fact that they couldn’t even be bothered to play along and submit a retro (“fauxback”?) lion logo and font like the rest of the sponsors really made it stick out as even more of a sore thumb. Not that that was needed.

    I really wish MLB uniforms would go back to this form of placard piping (not sure I am using the correct terms) rather than the modern spoonhead look. The piping on the placard that crosses under the neck and breaks up the spoon effect makes all the difference in the world.
    Anyone know when the spoonhead became a thing and replaced the original style?

    Hmmmm. Will a CC design element ever become so beloved to fans or team for some reason and be adopted into a regular uniform?

    I could see the Guardians CC becoming their standard.
    Probably my favorite uniform the franchise has ever worn, even more than the caveman blood clots and blue over blue unis.

    Drop the CLE for either Cleveland or Guardians and that uniform can stay for the long haul.

    Agree! I don’t like the CC program, but Cleveland is the exception. Other than the CLE on the jesery, the uniform is by far the best of the bunch. Love the hat and the how the leeters and logo standout on the navy top. I was watching yesterday’s Cleveland game with Seattle wearing their green tops and to me it was a visual treat. Beautiful game!

    This has essentially been my metric for success with the CCs. “Could it become ‘permanent’?” So I’ve thought a lot about it. None of the following is to say the teams or players like the elements enough for that to happen, just that I think they are worthy or an improvement.

    Rangers everything. But particularly the TX, jersey setup (number and logo across chest), color scheme, and while I like the idea of the peagle, I think the Texas/spur logo would be the one to stick around.

    Houston’s orbit/H logo, and perhaps the typeface could make the transition.

    Whitesox having an all black uni, and maybe keeping a south side wordmark uni.

    Cubs integrating the flag star C as a secondary maybe.

    Dodgers DLA logo as a secondary logo.

    Angels anything could make the jump.

    Arizona everything but the banana sand base color.

    Mariners typeface and logos.

    Reds hat, C logo, and typeface.

    Guardians typeface, sleeve stripes (not side panel stripes), and statue roundell.

    Mets using NYC across the chest (actually did a Mets redesign far prior to the CC program that used that element)

    Boston as a special occasion uni.

    Baltimore hat.

    KC fountain logo.

    Toronto split T as a secondary logo.

    Tampa’s color scheme.

    Rockies roundell logo.

    Cardinals use of “the Lou”. Ok just kidding on that one. But the rest I legitimately think are nice design elements for those teams.

    As a Rays fan alongside the color scheme, I hope that the skyray logo sticks around as well

    The Golden Gate Bridge trim around the sleeve of the Giants’ CC should have already been adopted on all their uniforms.

    As a giants fan I will say I like the idea of the bridge sleeve treatment, but the execution is lacking. Sublimating it into the fabric looks lazy and cheap. I suppose if they were to actually stitch it in to the uni it would look better to me but then the sleeve would hang differently.

    I could imagine something on the Cubs’ CCs, particularly the pale-blue-and-red, star-incorporating city flag elements, making it. The uniforms themselves feel like a fauxback reminding people of the all dark blue that they wore on the road on and off from the 1880s to 1910s. I hate the CC number font, though.

    Phil- You’ve really risen to the occasion over the last few weeks. I feel that Uni-Watch is perhaps more enjoyable than ever. The variety of content you’re providing is outstanding. THANK YOU!

    Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. It’s nigh on impossible to replace the guy who invented the genre, but I’m doing my level best to uphold his legacy for all Uni Watchers!

    Pretty sure the GTGFTS is September 9, 1956, first game of a doubleheader at Wrigley between the Cubs and the visiting Milwaukee Braves. After the Cubs scored four early off Warren Spahn, the Braves came back to win 7-4, with Hank Aaron going 4-5 with two RBIs and two runs.

    I like that number font that the Cubs used on the scoreboard for many decades much more than the one (Franklin Gothic, I think) that they use now. The older one is so much more readable.

    What an incredible venue for an MLB game. Just gorgeous.

    It is so sad to see how few African-American players there are in MLB these days. So many of the game’s all-time greats are African-American…

    Nice recap, Phil. I thoroughly enjoyed the game. I’m not very fussy about ‘period accuracy’ if I can use that term but I wish the players had all gone high cuffed. You also mentioned my other quibble… the umps in old time unis would have been outstanding. But I bet finding one of those old time balloon chest protectors would have been tough.

    The ‘throwback’ tv production inning was a fun gimmick.

    On a side note… Bob Kendrick is a National Treasure!

    Phil: one bit of info left out of the Willie Mays timeline.

    Between Birmingham and Minneapolis, he played for one year in Trenton, N.J.

    This is by SABR:


    Also worth noting… Fox did an inning where the graphics and the camera views mimicked how a game would have been broadcast in 1954. Totally worth a watch! Link to part of it here. link

    That really brought back memories of watching Yankee games on WPIX with my dad way back when. I wonder if they considered doing the whole game in that fashion as an ‘alt’ broadcast?

    For those who liked the broadcast as it would have looked in 1954, FOX once broadcast a game and each inning advanced the technology a decade. I think they nailed it. Worth a watch.


    I wasn’t able to watch the game, but I hope to find a full game broadcast posted somewhere because it looks beautiful and I imagine there were a ton of great stories told.

    I know this site is focused on aesthetics, but Reggie Jackson gave a harrowing account of playing in Birmingham in 1967. I think it is so important to honor the players who played in the negro leagues, but as Reggie reminds us, not forget why these leagues existed in the first place.


    It brought me to tears. To think, this is how my grandparents lived. I couldn’t imagine what my parents experienced in their childhood (my mom, born in 1951) and early teens (my dad, born in 1939). We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

    GTGFTS: 9 September 1956, game 1 of a doubleheader between the Milwaukee Braves and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Starters were Don Kaiser for the Cubs and Warren Spahn for the Braves, although the Cubs hit three home runs off Spahn and knocked him out of the game in the second inning. Henry Aaron went on to have four singles and two RBIs in the game and the Braves came back to win it, 7-4.

    It would have been cool if the catchers wore gear that looked kind of throwback. Like make it just a brown leather look or something.

    Pittsburgh Pirates finally added an ad on their jerseys…f’in SHEETZ.

    F @sheetz

    In my hometown of Ellwood City, PA, Sheetz bought out the block with a house that had been in my family for over a century. Knocked it down and now a convenience store sits there.

    Not a good day.

    Pretty neat that Rickwood was modeled after Forbes Field. The sands of time have kept moving, but once upon a time Birmingham was a major producer of steel and was often called “The Pittsburgh of the South”. The annual rivalry between Auburn and Alabama was played in Birmingham every year until 1989 when Auburn hosted Alabama. While that tradition has also become a victim to the sands of time, the moniker “The Iron Bowl” continues to live on.

    It’s disappointing when players don’t “get in on the fun” with throwbacks. For just one game out of 162, you can roll your pants up or not wear the bike shorts. I get you’re comfortable with that style when you play, but, especially a moment like this game, it would’ve been really cool if they went all-in on the throwback aesthetics.

    It drives me crazy that these guys are so committed to their fashion choice they can’t bring themselves to wear classic baseball knickers with stirrup socks and sanitaries. Is it uncomfortable? Does it hurt a little? Will it detract from their performance? Would it be mentally distracting? No, hell no, nope, and no effing way. Their “look” is so important it can’t withstand deviation for a single game intended to honor the men whose shoulders they stand on.

    For me the presentation was just too much. Yes, a celebration is warranted, and long, long overdue. The Negro Leagues’ history must constantly be uncovered, researched, revealed and absorbed by all of us. And, with sturdy context, celebrated.

    Down here in New Orleans, the word “resilience” gets tossed around a lot. There are those in the Black community who are tired of it. Yes, the community is resilient. But there’s never an accounting of the forces that have forced the Black population here to be resilient time and time again.

    Last night’s proceedings at Rickwood felt like that. There was precious little context for the night, save for Reggie Jackson’s personal account. Fox’s black-and-white half-inning was interesting and technically well-done, but it was a cheap gimmick given that by 1954, the Negro Leagues were in a free fall financially. Historians debate whether post-1947 Negro League teams were made up of players oppressed by MLB racism (some!) or just not good enough to make the MLB rosters (the rest). And anyway, Negro League teams would not have had their games broadcast on live television in the 1950s. As for Josh Gibson, now MLB’s leader in several career stat categories, there was no mention his clinical depression at never making the Major Leagues.

    As for the uniforms, of the game, Oliver Kodner had it right–there were plenty of contrivances. This is nothing new when it comes to throwback games, of course. The caps, for instance. There just weren’t that many Negro League teams whose caps had insignia. Neither the Sea Lions or the Cool Papa Bell-era Stars did. It’s not all MLB’s fault–for decades the Negro Leagues Museum has been using team logos that were made up in the 1990s and 2000s. Even the Museum believes that historically-accurate logos and uniforms aren’t cool enough to tell the story.

    Finally, Fox sure can’t let fans digest stories on their own. Again, nothing new. I was worried that last night would be more treacle than triumph, and that came to pass. Insisting that the clock striking 8:24 was a historical moment because those are the numbers Willie Mays wore for the Black Barons and the Giants was a desperate contortion. Constantly going on about how cool the black-and-white segment was while it was happening destroyed all of the intended magic–like a singer telling you how to feel about their song in the middle of the song.

    Look. I’m glad this game took place. I’m glad Jon Batiste played. I’m glad an all Black umpiring crew called the game. I’m glad it was at Rickwood Field. I’m glad it felt like a joyous occasion. I liked the players escorted the Negro League players out one-by-one and sticking to the background while the Negro Leaguers were introduced.

    In short, there was a lot to like. But the big gaps in coverage, sentiment and the entire history of the Negro Leagues underscore why it all happened in the first place. And while the nation still has such a problem with race.

    I suggest MLB just mail Robert Peterson’s Only The Ball Was White, John Holoway’s Josh And Satch, and Rob Ruck’s fabulous Sandlot Seasons to every MLB fan. It’ll certainly complete the circuit.

    I was at the game last night. I live in Birmingham and do free lance TV production work. I was able to be on the field prior to the game. It is a great ballpark, both my sons played some summer ball there and I umpired some Sunday afternoon men’s leagues. It was a tremendous week and MLB did a great job of updating the park, but leaving the historic feeling there. One thing, the lights do work, but they are not up to MLB standards, so they brought in temporary lighting. It was great to be a part of the events, the uniforms in my mind, left a lot to be desired. But it was great to see and hear all the history good and bad, and see so many greats there.

    “the lights do work, but they are not up to MLB standards, so they brought in temporary lighting”

    Ahhh. I must have mis-heard on the broadcast last night. I knew MLB had to bring in the temporary lighting, but I thought it was because the lights were not longer working, not that they weren’t up to MLB standards.

    Thanks for the clarification and glad you enjoyed the game!

    When Rickwood Classic was being played annually by the Barons, the umpires would wear period appropriate attire. Too bad the game even had to be played under the lights.

    A couple fun facts: basically all the outfield signage was done specifically for this game. I was there several months ago and while watching the game last night, noticed it was all new. Second, the lights at Rickwood are actually the Polo Grounds lights and were shipped down once the Polo Grounds closed. Two awesome fun facts! Rickwood is an incredible venue where you can feel the history and I hope MLB comes back

    I liked the outfield scoreboard, frozen in time. Now THAT would make a great GTGFTS! I wished the Giants’ batting helmet logos were a little more…visible? It seems to blend in with the rest of the helmet.

    Typo: “If your curious as to why a team named the “Sea Lions”
    – you’re

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