This will be the third appearance for the Lookouts in the classic. The Barons have defeated Chattanooga in the two previous contests, in 1997, 12-6, and in 2002, 14-4. The Barons lost to the Tennessee Smokies in last year's classic, 8-7, in an 11-inning affair. Birmingham holds a 7-8 record in the event that has taken place since 1996. The classic will honor the final season of the Southern Association, where in 1961 the Lookouts edged the Barons by one game for the league title. During Birmingham's 60-year run (1901-61) in the Southern Association, the Barons won seven championships (1906, 1912, 1914, 1928, 1929, 1931 and 1958).
The Barons will don their grey uniforms from the 1961 season while the Lookouts will wear white uniforms from the early 1960's.
"We are excited about the 16th Annual Rickwood Classic and celebrating the 1961 Barons team that was affiliated with the Detroit Tigers," Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson states "The Rickwood Classic is a very special event in the Birmingham community and over the years has been recognized nationally as a must-attend baseball game. Along with the Friends of Rickwood and State Farm Insurance, we are looking forward to providing another fun and memorable afternoon at America's oldest ballpark," he continued.
At a cost of $75,000 for the 7,000-seat facility, Rickwood Field opened on August 18, 1910, when an estimated 10,000 fans witnessed a ninth-inning, come-from-behind 3-2 Barons victory over the Montgomery Climbers. The Barons would continue their winning ways on the grounds, winning nine league championships, including a title in the stadium's final season in 1987.
"The Friends of Rickwood look forward to a continuation of success of last year's Centennial, and are excited about honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1961 season," said Director of the Friends of Rickwood David Brewer. "We believe that Gaylord Perry is an outstanding choice for Classic VIP, and we look forward to welcoming him back to Birmingham and Rickwood Field," Brewer noted.
Perry was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, after he played for eight teams (Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers) during his 22-year major-league career. A two-time Cy Young Award winner (1972 and 1978) and five-time all-star, Perry won 314 games, two Cy Young Awards (1972 and 1978) and ranks eighth in strikeouts with 3,534. Infamous for his "spitball", the Williamstown, NC native was a five-time 20-game winner and ranks sixth in innings pitched with 5,350.
This will be the eighth straight year that State Farm insurance has been the title sponsor of the Rickwood Classic. "Rickwood Field is a rich part of Birmingham's past, present and future cultural heritage, and State Farm is proud to be associated with such a positive community event. We are known as the 'Good Neighbors,' and we trust that our support of the Rickwood Classic and its unique baseball traditions will help demonstrate that commitment to the people of Birmingham," said State Farm Marketing Analyst Cathy Warren.
In 2010, the Rickwood Classic was named Minor League Baseball's Promotion of the Year and in 2009 the event was named the most desirable Minor League Baseball game to attend in a poll on MiLB.com.
Tickets for the 16th Annual Rickwood Classic are currently available on the web, over the phone or by visiting the Regions Park Box Office. The 2011 Barons season commences on Thursday, April 7th against the Montgomery Biscuits, Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, with the home opener set for Wednesday, April 13th versus the Chattanooga Lookouts, Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For ticket information, game schedule, or promotions calendar, call (205) 988-3200 or visit www.barons.com, www.facebook.com/birminghambarons or on Twitter @bhambarons.