Rickwood Field game features first all-Black umpire crew in MLB history


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Major League Baseball, in a tribute to the Negro Leagues, has an all-Black umpiring crew Thursday for the first time in history at Rickwood Field between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

Adrian Johnson will be the crew chief, for a group that includes Alan Porter, C.B. Bucknor, Malachi Moore and Jeremie Rehak. They will also wear patches in honor of Emmett Ashford, the first Black umpire in 1966.

It's the first MLB game at Rickwood Field in its 114-year history where the Birmingham Black Barons played, and where Hall of Fame great Willie Mays opened his professional career.

The idea of an all-Black umpiring crew came from Rob Field, the senior manager of global events, which was immediately supported by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and vice president Michael Hill.

The umpires were asked in January if they wanted to work the Rickwood Game with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, with Johnson and Porter originally scheduled to be off, and all readily agreed.

Umpires on the field during Thursday's game at Rickwood Field.
Umpires on the field during Thursday's game at Rickwood Field.

Moore, who used to be a groundskeeper at MLB’s Youth Academy in Compton, California, is the first graduate from the Compton Youth Academy to make it to the big leagues as an umpire. He wears No. 44 in honor of Kerwin Danley, baseball’s first Black crew chief, and his mentor.

“I’m so proud of him," Danley told USA TODAY Sports last year. “You never know what can happen. Look at Malachi. I didn’t know anything about him. I just saw a young Black kid, a baseball player who came from the same kind of neighborhood I came from, and someone who had a desire to stay in the game.

“He’s going to have a long future in this game."

Said Moore: “I remember being hell-bent on being the head groundskeeper for the Dodgers or Padres, which would have been just fine. But, man, being a big-league umpire, what a blessing. This was God’s plan starting in Compton, coming full circle, and now this.

“I owe the Compton Academy and umpires school so much, believe me, the least I can do is try to inspire others. I love to help. I love the feeling of helping others. So many people impacted my life.

“Shame on me if I don’t impact others, too."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rickwood Field umpires are first all-Black crew in MLB history