MLB icon Willie Mays will be honored with a Negro League tribute game at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, during the 2024 season, reports ESPN. Mays, an Alabama native, launched his professional career with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948.
"I can't believe it. I never thought I'd see in my lifetime a major league baseball game being played on the very field where I played baseball as a teenager," Willie Mays said in a statement.
"It has been 75 years since I played for the Birmingham Black Barons at Rickwood Field, and to learn that my Giants and the Cardinals will play a game there and honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and all those who came before them is really emotional for me. We can't forget what got us here, and that was the Negro Leagues for so many of us."
On June 20, 2024, the San Francisco Giants will face the St. Louis Cardinals, with both teams sporting period uniforms to represent the Negro League teams of each city.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred expressed his excitement about honoring Mays and the history of the Negro Leagues with the tribute game to celebrate Juneteenth next year.
"The legacy of the Negro Leagues and its greatest living player, Willie Mays, is one of excellence and perseverance," Manfred said in a statement. "We look forward to sharing the stories of the Negro Leagues throughout this event next year."
Regarded as one of the greatest players in baseball history, Mays won a World Series championship with the Giants in 1954 and was voted National League MVP in 1954 and 1965. He is a 24-time All-Star and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 in his first year of eligibility. Mays was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. President Barack Obama awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Mays is the oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rickwood Field is the oldest professional ballpark in the U.S. and a National Historic Site. The stadium, which can seat over 10,000 fans, was home to the Birmingham Black Barons from 1924 to 1960. The MLB has also committed to work with the City of Birmingham and Friends of Rickwood to renovate the ballpark.