Birmingham’s Rickwood Field (opened in 1910) is the oldest professional baseball park in the United States. To celebrate and remember the park’s rich history, the non-profit Friends of Rickwood formed in 1990 and has been collecting a treasure trove of Rickwood-related baseball memorabilia donations since then, including everything from autographed bats to championship rings.
To organize these items, the Friends of Rickwood reached out to the department’s Dr. Julia Brock, a specialist in public history, who had the perfect intern candidate for the job: Elissa Lisle.
Lisle has a passion for sports history. Her M.A. thesis explores the desegregation of the Montgomery Blue-Gray Football Classic. A lifelong baseball fan, Lisle described this internship as “a dream come true.”
Since January, Lisle has sorted and cataloged decades’ worth of sports memorabilia and records. Rickwood Field has a rich history as the home of not only the Birmingham Barons but also the Black Barons of the Negro League. Willie Mays, the legendary center fielder, was one of many stars who got their start at Rickwood Field.
Lisle believes her work will enlarge and help publicize the collections at the new Rickwood Field Museum. “I hope this effort starts that process and gives them a relationship with the black community in the area,” she said. Lisle also worked with Dr. Brock on a collections policy for the organization that they will be able to use long after Lisle’s internship.