Negro Leagues Museum unveils 24-foot-tall Satchel Paige card ahead of MLB Rickwood Field game

Legendary pitcher Satchel Paige was larger than life when he played five decades in the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball, so perhaps it’s only fitting his massive trading card will be featured Thursday outside of the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City to promote the historic upcoming Rickwood Field game June 20, in Birmingham, Alabama.

It will be quite the weekend celebrating the Negro Leagues and Black baseball history. The unveiling of the Henry Aaron statue will be Thursday night at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, with more than 100 dignitaries in attendance. The opening of the new exhibit, “The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball" will be Friday night with 15 Hall of Famers scheduled for the event, including Ryne Sandberg, who announced this week that he is now cancer free after undergoing chemo and radiation treatment for metastatic prostate cancer.

The Hall of Fame East-West Classic will be paying tribute to the old Negro Leagues All-Star Game with 25 former players playing in the seven-inning game with 14 Hall of Famers as coaches. Also in attendance will be former Negro Leagues stars Sam Allen and Pedro Sierra.

“The East-West All-Star game was one of the biggest sporting events in baseball history that most people didn’t even know about," said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, “but you would have 60,000 people packed in Comiskey Park for that All-Star Game."

Said Baseball Hall of Fame president Josh Rawitch, who expects a sellout crowd at Doubleday Field for the game: “For about 30 years, the East-West All-Star Game was one of the major events in all of America. It was really the quintessential All-Star Game."

The weekend will be a prelude to “MLB at Rickwood Field: a Tribute to the Negro Leagues,” a game between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field, America’s oldest ballpark (1910), where Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Paige once played.

The game will be promoted Thursday morning by FOX Sports and Fanatics Collectibles at the Negro Leagues Museum with the unveiling of the Paige trading card, standing 24 feet high, 16 feet wide and weighing 8,000 pounds. There will be another Paige trading card featured Friday outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Paige is one of four legends, sketched by former major-league player Micah Johnson, that will be featured during a promotional tour along with Mays, Robinson and Gibson.

"It was no easy task," Johnson said, “to create portraits of absolute legends. It’s really hard to make portraits with the world watching and so many recognizable faces.’’

Yet, when it was all over, Johnson couldn’t have been more proud of his work, and will be at the Negro Leagues Museum on Thursday for the unveiling of the Paige card.

“Satchel is the ideal individual to be the first recognized in this manner," Kendrick said. “And to have it unveiled at the Negro Leagues Museum is even more special. In a league filled with big stars, he was the biggest. It makes him the fittest choice to be the first one unveiled."

The Rickwood event will be the first major league baseball game played at the old Negro League ballpark, the home of Willie Mays where he opened his professional career with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time," Kendrick said. “It will be a seminal moment in Negro Leagues history. To do this at Rickwood Field, a place with history so rich, and a place where a young Willie Mays got started his career, will be very special. Interest in Negro Leagues history is at an all-time high, and this game will push it over the top."

The game will celebrate the legacy of Mays, who just turned 93, with MLB officials hoping he can be in attendance if his health permits.

“Willie Mays is widely regarded as the greatest living major-leaguer, and some will say the greatest major-league player who ever lived," Kendrick said. "He validated the other players that preceded him in the Negro Leagues. Who knows, there could have been some players who were just as good or better than Willie Mays who played in the Negro Leagues, and baseball missed out."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB at Rickwood Field: Negro Leagues Museum unveils Satchel Paige card