The history of the nation’s oldest active baseball park is in many ways the history of American baseball. Yet, much of the history of Birmingham’s Rickwood Field has been hidden from the eyes of historians and biographers, because it was locked away in the basement of Glynn West, longtime manager of the Birmingham Barons and Birmingham A’s.
Now, the collection has been discovered and catalogued, and it is being sold in an online auction by West’s daughter, Candy West. It includes such memorabilia as Reggie Jackson’s cleats, scores of autographed balls, bats and jerseys, and other items.
Perhaps more importantly, it includes detailed documents providing a game-by-game record of ledgers, attendance and payouts, mapping out the storied history of Rickwood and the teams that played there, according to Mike Fisher, president of Redfield Auction Gallery, which is selling the collection at redfieldauctiongallery.com.
“This is a real mother lode of artifacts and records that will be of use not only to baseball fans, but to historians, biographers and museums,” said Fisher. “The history of Rickwood is in many ways the history of American baseball — not only of the many Hall of Fame players who came through, but also of the Birmingham Black Barons, the Negro League and the desegregation of the minor leagues in 1964.”
Candy West, who still lives in the Birmingham area, said she decided to auction the items to ensure that they are preserved. “My father wasn’t really a collector, and neither am I, and I wanted to make sure these get in the hands of people and institutions who will fully appreciate them and make them available to students of the history of the game, Rickwood Park and the city,” she said.
“It’s hard to think of a major league star who didn’t play at Rickwood on his way to the majors or in the Negro League. We have a lot of balls and other items signed by such greats as Reggie Jackson, Dizzy Dean, Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter. Even Satchel Paige pitched at Rickwood Field in an exhibition game that drew 8,318,” she said.
“My father had a remarkable career, most of it as general manager for the Barons and A’s. At one point, he was even offered the job of managing the Oakland team, but he chose to stay in Birmingham and put his family first,” she said.
The collection is available for inspection from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at Redfield Auction Gallery, 1044 Sutton Bridge Road, Rainbow City, Alabama. More info is available at http://www.redfieldauctiongallery.com or by calling 256-442-4007.