Negro Southern League Museum

Mayor BellBirmingham Welcomes the NSLM

With Mayor William Bell

November 10, 2015 | View on Facebook

When Regions Field opened in 2013, Birmingham quickly gained the reputation of a “baseball city,” with record-breaking attendance at Birmingham Barons games. What many don’t realize, however, is that Birmingham’s longtime story with baseball dates back more than 50 years, when the Birmingham Black Barons made history in the Negro Southern League.

Open since August of this year, the Negro Southern League Museum (NSLM) honors the players of the Negro Leagues and the contributions they have made to Major League Baseball. Within its 8,000 square feet of exhibit space, the NSLM showcases the largest collection of original Negro League artifacts in the U.S.

“The museum has been a dream of this city for a long time, and we are thrilled for it to be a reality,” says Mayor William Bell. “The Negro Southern League Museum is another component of our Parkside district and the renaissance of the city.”

Located next to Regions Field, Railroad Park, and the B&A Warehouse, the NSLM connects our city’s rich history with its modern culture.

“Birmingham is a baseball town,” says Mayor Bell. “We’re home to the oldest baseball park in the country, Rickwood Field, and the newest, Regions Field.”

NSLM 1From a wall of autographed baseballs to stadium seats the lined the fields, the NSLM captures a piece of history by showcasing the real stories of the Negro League players who came from and played in Birmingham.

“The men who played this sport, who broke barriers, and who excelled in every way used the gloves you see in the museum and wore the jerseys you see on display,” explains Mayor Bell. “They are the true heroes of the sport and of Birmingham’s history.”

The NSLM is located on 16th Street South and is open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday from noon – 5 p.m. Admission is free, so all of Birmingham is welcomed to visit and learn more about Birmingham’s history with the Negro Southern League.

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Stuart Knox (R) of ExpoDisplays

Stuart Knox (R) of ExpoDisplays

Behind the Scenes of Creating the NSLM

With Stuart Knox of ExpoDisplays

November 17, 2015 | View on Facebook

“It’s not commonly known, but Birmingham has had a huge part in baseball across the country,” says Stuart Knox with ExpoDisplays. “The Birmingham Black Barons and Rickwood Field are symbolic not only to Birmingham’s history, but to the history of baseball.”

As the special projects designer for ExpoDisplays, a company that creates extraordinary custom exhibits, Knox was thrilled when he was approached to help design the Negro Southern League Museum (NSLM) adjacent to Regions Field here in Birmingham.

“Design and baseball are what I’m passionate about,” says Knox, who grew up in Birmingham and played baseball his entire life. “So taking on a project like this was a dream come true.”

SK1Knox explains that the 8,000 square foot museum was designed to showcase the enormous collection of Negro League baseball artifacts alongside interesting historical facts.

From the moment you step inside the museum and look up to see the iconic light fixture made out of custom baseball bats, it’s easy to see that the NSLM isn’t your run-of-the-mill museum.

“One special element of the museum is the interactive Satchel Paige homage,” says Knox of the experiential station, which features a life-sized hologram of the legendary Negro Southern League and Major League pitcher. The station invites visitors to select from a few of Paige’s best pitches and watch as the projection throws the ball just like Paige did.

“The guy posing as Paige is actually a kid named John I coached in baseball at Woodlawn High School a few years back,” says Knox, explaining that they shot hours of footage to ensure John perfectly replicated Paige’s persona. “The challenge was that Satchel Paige was a right-handed pitcher, and John was a lefty, so we manufactured custom uniforms with flipped numbers and edited the video so that it appeared John was a natural right-handed pitcher.”

Filming the Satchel Paige hologram tribute.

Filming the Satchel Paige hologram tribute.

The museum also features real uniforms and mitts worn by Negro League players and seats from the baseball stadiums where they played. Around every corner of the NSLM is a unique nod to our city’s deep roots in baseball, just waiting to be discovered by the Birmingham community.

The NSLM is located on 16th Street South and is open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday from noon – 5 p.m. Admission is free, so all of Birmingham is welcomed to visit and learn more about Birmingham’s history with the Negro Southern League.

Find out more at

Oliver Ferguson with wife Clara

Oliver Ferguson with wife Clara

Meet an Original Birmingham Black Barons Player

With Oliver Ferguson

November 24, 2015 | View on Facebook

“I started playing for the Birmingham Black Barons back in 1938,” says Oliver Ferguson, sitting next to his wife of 73 years, Clara. Turning 95 years old this Thanksgiving, Ferguson is a Birmingham baseball legend. His story—and the stories of black baseball players who came before and after him—are shared within the walls of the Negro Southern League Museum, now open in downtown Birmingham.

Growing up in Birmingham, Ferguson developed a love for baseball at an early age. “My father had a baseball club,” he explains. “And I was what you’d call the bat boy.” He first picked up a bat at age two and honed his baseball skills playing with his dad and brother throughout his youth.

“As a kid, I had no idea I’d be good enough to play with the Black Barons,” says Ferguson, who joined the team at age 18. “I played every position I could, but I was usually shortstop.”

That year, the Birmingham Black Barons traveled across the country playing against the other Negro League teams from Tennessee to Virginia to Michigan. But when the team got to their destination, there often wasn’t a place for them to stay.

“A lot of the times we’d sleep in the car,” says Ferguson. “If it was summer, we’d sleep outside.”

Ferguson remembers long bus rides followed by going straight into games, still stiff as a board from sitting for hours. Though it was grueling, Ferguson recounts his year as a Birmingham Black Baron as one he will never forget.

Ferguson with his great-grandson

Ferguson with his great-grandson

“I learned more in that year than I have in my whole life,” he says. “We had one of the best teams in the world. Everyone knew who the Black Barons were, all the way from Alabama to New York.”

After his stint with the Black Barons, Ferguson played for other teams around the country before returning to Birmingham, where he retired and turned in his baseball bat for a golf club.

He still has his original Birmingham Black Barons uniform, and he still gets together with his 1938 teammates still living in Birmingham, which he proudly calls “one of the greatest cities.”

Birmingham’s Negro Southern League Museum was built to pay tribute to the Birmingham Black Barons and its fellow Negro Southern League baseball teams. Located on 16th Street South and open to the public with free admission, it invites Birmingham to visit and learn more about our city’s history with the Negro Southern League.

Find out more at


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