Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson shares the emotions of returning to Rickwood Field

Written by on June 21, 2024

Major League Baseball made history on Thursday night, with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals playing the league’s first game at Rickwood Field. For those who may be unaware of the park’s significance, Rickwood Field is located in Birmingham, Alabama. and it used to serve as the home to the Negro League’s Birmingham Black Barons. (It’s also, fittingly, where the late Willie Mays began his professional career.) 

Prior to the start of Thursday’s contest, Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson offered his perspective on what it meant to him to return to Rickwood, where he played as a member of the Birmingham A’s (the then-Kansas City A’s Double-A affiliate) in 1967.

Here’s his full response:

“Coming back here is not easy,” Jackson shared when he was asked about his emotional response to coming back to Rickwood Field. “The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled. Fortunately, I had a manager and I had players on the team that helped me get through it. But I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

Jackson then shared the unvarnished truth about how he would often be called racial slurs and denied service by workers at restaurants and hotels. Additionally, Jackson noted how important it was to him that his manager and team had his back.

“Fortunately, I had a manager, in Johnny McNamara, that … if I couldn’t eat in the place, nobody would eat. We would get food to travel. If I couldn’t stay in a hotel, they’d drive to the next hotel and find a place where I could stay,” Jackson recalled. “Had it not been for Rollie Fingers, Johnny McNamara, Dave Duncan, Joe and Sharon Rudi … I slept on their couch three, four nights a week for about a month and a half. Finally, they were threatened that they would burn our apartment complex down unless I got out.”

Jackson concluded by saying that without McNamara and his teammates, that he would’ve never made it out of Birmingham alive. “I would’ve [gotten] killed here, because I would’ve beat someone’s [butt].”

It was a sobering recollection of memories from throughout Jackson’s career. The Hall of Fame talent didn’t hold back when discussing the truth of what he endured over his playing career, and it is well worth the listen as MLB celebrates the legacy of Mays and of Rickwood Field as a whole. 

The post Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson shares the emotions of returning to Rickwood Field first appeared on CBS Sports.


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