On August 18, 2020, Rickwood Field will celebrate its 110th anniversary as America’s oldest ballpark. As long as people care about keeping Rickwood alive, we believe the ballpark will last.
But this got us thinking about the 10th anniversary of the ballpark back in 1920. That anniversary went unnoticed by The Birmingham News, perhaps because the Barons were busy sweeping a doubleheader from the Crackers in Atlanta’s Ponce de Leon Park.
The Barons were competitive in 1920 finishing with a record of 85-69 (.552). However, Birmingham finished in fourth place 6.5 games behind the Little Rock Travelers (88-59), New Orleans Pelicans (86-62) and Atlanta Crackers (85-62). In winning the Southern Association, the Travelers also won the right to represent the league in the first ever Dixie Series against the Fort Worth Panthers. Unfortunately for the SA, and the Travelers, Little Rock fell in 6 games in the Series.
For the Barons and manager Carlton Molesworth, 1920 was a very good season. Attendance increased from 93,661 from the previous year to 172,475 and the club played well on the field. In fact, Birmingham was in the pennant race for nearly the entire summer. After a 4- 7 start, which plunged them into seventh, the Barons went 10-1 and surged into first place by early May with a 14-8 record. Birmingham remained on top for the next 2 months. On July 3, the Barons led the league with a record of 38-29, but Little Rock was right behind them. On July 10, the Travelers overtook the Barons.
Still, Molesworth’s men kept fighting. On the morning of August 21, the Barons were 67-50 and were tied with Little Rock for second place. Both teams trailed New Orleans by only two games. Birmingham fans didn’t know it, but the pennant race was about to end. The Travelers got hot finishing 21-9 to take the flag. Meanwhile, the Barons scuffled down the stretch with an 18-19 finish.
The Barons had some nice individual performances. Outfielder and Third Baseman Clyde Barnhart batted .322 with 25 doubles and 17 triples. First Baseman/Catcher Al Bernsen hit .320 and socked 8 home runs to tie Thomas Stevenson as the team leader in round trippers. Alfred Ellis and Bert Griffith batted .316 and .304 respectively. The Barons also added young Stuffy Stewart, who would become an important cog in the Barons back-to-back SA championships in 1928-29.
The pitching staff had two starters who threw over 300 innings and two others with over 200 innings. Johnny Morrison led the Barons and tied for the league lead in wins (26-13). Whitey Glazner went 24-10. Thomas Gallagher and Joe Coffindaffer combined for 29 wins.