Rebuild it and they will come
by Jennifer Cohron
Aug 29, 2010 | 1936 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jennifer Cohron
Jennifer Cohron
My marriage is like a syllogism. Zac loves baseball. I love Zac. Therefore, I am learning to love baseball.

I've written columns about our Chicago Cubs-themed wedding and our honeymoon trip to Atlanta to watch the Cubs play the Braves.

The next segment of our sports journey together took us to Rickwood Field in Birmingham.

America's oldest baseball park turned 100 this summer. In honor of the anniversary, Vulcan Park is hosting a special exhibit through October called "From Factory to Field: The Dream of Baseball in Birmingham."

Zac and I both learned a lot while walking through Vulcan's Linn-Henley Gallery last weekend.

The list of legends that played at Rickwood Field includes Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Hank Aaron, Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean and Stan Musial.

Birmingham also had several homegrown baseball greats.

Willie Mays grew up just outside the city and led the Black Barons to a Negro American League championship in 1948 while he was still in high school.

Four of the men who played alongside Ruth and Lou Gehrig on the 1932 New York Yankees team once dug in their cleats at Birmingham sandlots.

Although reading about Rickwood Field and seeing some memorabilia was interesting enough, nothing could take the place of a personal visit to the park.

There wasn't another soul in sight during our trip there. It was just Zac, me and the ghosts.

A brochure near the gate published by the Friends of Rickwood gave us more history and directions for our self-guided tour.

The field was beautiful. The 1948 era drop-in scoreboard and antique outfield signs made me feel like the Babe was going to come out of the dugout at any time.

I assumed that signs would be posted everywhere warning us to stay in the stands. Instead, the brochure invited us to walk out to the pitcher's mound where Paige, Dean and Burleigh Grimes (the last pitcher to throw a legal spitball) once stood.

Of course, I had to get pictures of Zac on the mound and in the batter's box. Zac, being the obsessive-compulsive baseball fan that he is, insisted on cleaning off home plate too.

Maybe it's because I was married on a ball field, but I found Rickwood to be a really romantic place.

At least one love story did start there. Barons first baseman Norm Zauchin fell into the lap of a young woman in 1950 while chasing a foul ball. They were married two years later.

The love of Friends of Rickwood has also kept the ballpark open when it should have been razed years ago in the name of "progress."

The group has raised around $2 million to renovate the park in the past 20 years. It is because of their efforts that baseball fans can enjoy the game as it was meant to be played once a year at the Rickwood Classic.

As author Allen Barra told The Birmingham News recently, "All you hear is the crack of the bat and the sounds of the players yelling to each other."

I may not be a sports encyclopedia like Zac, but I like to think I'm developing into a true baseball fan.

Men who like to drink and high school has-beens have staked claims in other sports. But baseball is for the pure of heart.

I think that's why Pete Rose is still a villain and the steroid scandal rocked the baseball world.

Players misbehaving in other sports is nothing new. But the guys who walk onto a baseball diamond are expected to have more respect for their fans, their team and the game itself.

The people who genuinely love baseball have a childlike faith that is passed down for generations. When they all get together for a game, it's like a family reunion.

So if I had to marry a sports nut anyway, I could do much worse than falling in love with a baseball fan.