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Forbes Field was a baseball park in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker from 1909 to 1971. It was the third home of the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball (MLB) team, and the first home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the city's National Football League (NFL) franchise. The stadium also served as the home football field for the University of Pittsburghmarker "Pitt" Panthers from 1909 to 1924. The stadium was named after British general John Forbes who fought in the French and Indian War, and named the city in 1758.

The US$1 million ($ in present-day terms) project was initiated by Pittsburgh Pirates' owner Barney Dreyfuss, with the goal of replacing his franchise's then-current home, Exposition Parkmarker. The stadium was made of concrete and steel (one of the first of its kind) in order to increase its lifespan. The Pirates opened Forbes Field on June 30, 1909 against Chicago Cubs, and would play the final game also against the Cubs on June 28, 1970. The field itself featured a large playing surface, with the batting cage placed in the deepest part of center field during games. Seating was altered multiple times throughout the stadium's life; at times fans were permitted to sit on the grass in the outfield during overflow crowds. The Pirates won three World Series while at Forbes Field and the other original tenant, the Pittsburgh Panthers football team had five undefeated seasons before moving in 1924.

Some remnants of the ballpark still stand, surrounded by the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Fans gather on the site annually on the anniversary of Bill Mazeroski's World Series winning home run, in what author Jim O'Brien writes is "one of the most unique expressions of a love of the game to be found in a major league city".


Planning and design

In 1903, Pittsburgh Pirates' owner Barney Dreyfuss began to look for ground to build a larger capacity replacement for the team's then-current home, Exposition Parkmarker. Dreyfuss purchased seven acres of land near the Carnegie Library of Pittsburghmarker, adjacent to Schenley Parkmarker, with assistance from his friend, industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The low-priced land was selected so Dreyfuss could spend more on the stadium itself. Dreyfuss signed a contract that he would "make the ballpark ... of a design that would harmonize with the other structures in the Schenley Park district." The site was initially labeled "Dreyfuss's Folly" due to its long distance—a 10-minute trolley ride—from downtown Pittsburghmarker, however, the land around the park developed and criticisms were dropped. Official Pirates' records show that Forbes Field cost US$1 million for site acquisition and construction, however some estimates place the cost at twice that amount.

Dreyfuss announced that unlike established wooden ballparks like the Polo Groundsmarker, he would build a three-tiered stadium out of steel and concrete to increase longevity—the first of its kind in the nation. Charles Wellford Leavitt, Jr. was contracted to design the stadium's grandstand. A civil engineer, Leavitt had founded an engineering and landscape architecture firm in 1897. He had gained experience in steel and concrete constructs while designing the Belmontmarker and Saratogamarker racetracks. Based on Dreyfuss' architectural requirements, Leavitt presented a plan for Forbes Field—the only ballpark he would design. Pirates' manager Fred Clarke also had input into the stadium's design, giving groundskeepers advice on the field, in addition to designing and patenting a device to spread and remove a canvas tarp over the infield in case of rain.

Initial work on the land began on January 1, 1909, but ground was not officially broken until March 1. Nicola Building Company built the stadium in 122 days and play began less than four months after ground was broken, on June 30. Though the scoreboard was operated by hand, the ballpark featured multiple innovations such as ramps and elevators to assist fan movement throughout the park, a room for the umpires, and a visiting team clubhouse similar to the Pirates'. The facade of the stadium featured "buff-colored terra cotta" spelling out "PAC" for the Pittsburgh Athletic Company. The light green steelwork contrasted with the red slate of the roof. Some members of the press urged Dreyfuss to name the stadium after himself. However, the owner decided on Forbes Field, in honor of General John Forbes, who captured Fort Duquesne from the French in 1758 and rebuilt a new "Fort Pittmarker" at the site. In 1935, after Dreyfuss' death, there was renewed media interest in renaming the stadium "Dreyfuss Field". His widow, Florence, resisted. However, a monument to Dreyfuss was placed in centerfield just in front of the wall.


On June 29, 1909, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Chicago Cubs by a score of 8–1 at Exposition Park. The two teams opened Forbes Field the following day. Fans began to arrive at the stadium six and one-half hours early for the 3:30 pm game. Of the crowd, the Pittsburgh Press wrote, "the ceremonies were witnessed by the largest throng that ever attended an event of this kind in this or any other city in the country ... Forbes Field is so immense—so far beyond anything else in America in the way of a baseball park—that old experts, accustomed to judging crowds at a glance, were at a loss for reasonable figures." Records show that the first game was attended by a standing-room only crowd of 30,338. Various National League officials and owners were present for the opening pre-game ceremonies, including league president Harry Pulliam, Civil War veteran and manager of Pittsburgh's first professional baseball team Al Pratt, and American League president Ban Johnson. Pittsburgh Mayor William A. Magee threw out the stadium's ceremonial first pitch. The Chicago Cubs won the first game by a score of 3–2. Dreyfuss declared, "This is indeed the happiest day of my life." The stadium was widely considered the best in the league.

Playing field

Forbes Field outfield wall and flagpole in its original location in Oakland
Barney Dreyfuss "hated cheap home runs and vowed he'd have none in his park", which led him to design a large playing field for Forbes Field. The original distances to the outfield fence in left, center, and right field were
,  , and   respectively.

In 1925, the right field grandstand was extended into the corner and into fair territory, reducing the foul line distance from to . Due to the reduced distance, Dreyfuss erected a high screen to limit home runs.

Even at this long distance from home plate, the wall stood in height in all around the field, with the right field wall reduced to following the 1925 construction (topped by the screen). The backstop was set at behind home plate, larger than the average of in most stadiums of the time. Additional seating eventually cut down the plate-to-screen distance to a still larger-than-average .

With such a large outfield space, triples and inside-the-park home runs were common. The Pirates hit a record eight triples in a single game, on May 30, 1925. Conversely, the stadium was the one of the most difficult to hit over-the-fence home runs. The closeness of the right field line from 1925 onward was the only area that compromised Dreyfuss' original design concept. Even at that, the right field wall angled sharply out to , a typical distance for a major league power alley. The first home run to clear the right field roof was hit on May 25, 1935; it was Babe Ruth's last in the Major Leagues.

Although Forbes Field developed a reputation as a "pitcher-friendly" ballpark, there was never a no-hitter thrown in the more than 4,700 games at the stadium.

The field itself consisted of natural grass grown in Crestline, Ohiomarker.

The batting cage was placed just to the left of the center field "Death Valley" marker during games, because it was believed impossible to hit the ball that far. The open part of the cage faced the wall, the back of the cage effectively serving as a convex fence. In right- and left-center fields, light towers stood on the field, and like the batting cage and flagpole in center field, were in-play.

In 1947, well after Dreyfuss' death, and upon the arrival of veteran slugger Hank Greenberg, the bullpens were moved from foul territory to the base of the scoreboard in left field and were fenced in, cutting from the left field area, from to down the line and to in left-center field. These were not abnormal major league outfield distances, but the obvious attempt to take advantage of Greenberg's bat led the media to dub the area "Greenberg Gardens". Greenberg retired after the season, but by then Ralph Kiner was an established slugger with the Pirates, and the bullpen was redubbed "Kiner's Korner". Kiner was traded after the 1953 season, and the field was restored to its previous configuration in time for the 1954 season.

The final posted dimensions of the ballpark were left field line , left-center field , deepest left-center , deep right-center , right-center field , and right field line . The only marker in exact straightaway center field was the Barney Dreyfuss monument, which sat on the playing field just in front of the wall.

Forbes Field's ivy-covered walls featured no advertising, except a United States Marine billboard during the 1943 season.

The infield developed a "rock-hard" surface throughout the stadium's history. During the final game of the 1960 World Series, Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek was struck in the neck with a ball that had bounced off the hard dirt surface, breaking up a potentially rally-killing double play and causing Kubek to have to exit the game. Pittsburgh went on to win the game and the championship. Groundskeepers would burn gasoline on the mound to dry it off. Because of the bounces, Pirates' play-by-play announcer Bob Prince nicknamed the ballpark, The House of Thrills.

Seating and tickets

A recreated entrance, including ticket window, located near the remaining outfield wall in Oakland
Forbes Field had an original capacity of 25,000, the largest in the league at the time. Seating at the stadium was remodeled numerous times, peaking at a capacity of 41,000 in 1925 and closing in 1970 at 35,000 seats. On opening day, ticket prices ranged from $1.25 for box seats and $1 for reserved grand stand sections; temporary bleachers were set up for the occasion and cost $0.50. Ticket prices were considered high for the day and steel pillars supporting the roof occasionally blocked fans' views of the field. Two thousand bleachers were situated along the left field side, tickets were sold for a maximum of $1. When winning streaks would attract high attendance to games, fans were permitted to sit on the grass in right field, provided they would agree to allow a player to catch any ball hit in the area. The lowest season of attendance came in 1914 when 139,620 people attended games. The highest at the stadium came in 1960, when 1,705,828 people watched the Pirates play at Forbes Field. On September 23, 1956, the stadium's largest crowd, 44,932, gathered to see the home team play the Brooklyn Dodgers. The game was cut short in the top of the ninth inning, after a rain delay forced it past the Pennsylvania Sunday curfew law. The Dodgers won the game 8–2 the following day. At 200 people, June 10, 1938 marked the smallest crowd to ever attend a Pirates' game at the stadium. On September 30, 1962, a crowd of 40,916 people saw the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated by the New York Giants, at the Steelers' highest attended game at the stadium.

Closing and demolition

Though Forbes Field was praised upon its opening, it began to show its age after 60 years of use. The park was the second oldest baseball field in the league at the time—younger than only Shibe Parkmarker in Philadelphiamarker. The location of the park, which was initially criticized for not being developed, grew into a "bustling business district" which led to a lack of parking space. One sportswriter wrote that The House of Thrills had become "as joyless as a prison exercise yard". Following a plan to expand their adjacent campus, the University of Pittsburgh purchased Forbes Field in 1958, with an agreement to lease the stadium to the Pirates until a replacement could be built. A proposal for a new sports stadium in Pittsburgh was first made in 1948, however, plans did not attract much attention until the late 1950s. Construction began on Three Rivers Stadiummarker on April 25, 1968. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs played a double-header on June 28, 1970. Pittsburgh won the first game 3–2. In the later game Al Oliver hit the last home run in the park, and Matty Alou drove in two runs as the Pirates closed the 62-year old stadium with a 4–1 victory. The 40,918 spectators in attendance stood and cheered as Bill Mazeroski retired Willie Smith for the final out at the stadium. Pirates hall of famermarker Roberto Clemente played fifteen seasons at Forbes Field. He was emotional during the last game saying, "I spent half my life there."

The abandoned structure suffered two separate fires that damaged the park, on December 24, 1970 and July 17, 1971. Eleven days after the second fire, demolition began, and the site was cleared for use by the University of Pittsburgh.


The portion of the left field wall over which Bill Mazeroski hit his walk-off home run in the 1960 World Series, between the scoreboard and the "406 FT" sign, no longer stands at its original location. A portion of that wall, including the distance marker, had been sliced off and moved to the Allegheny Club at Three Rivers Stadium. Before the Three Rivers demolition, the section of the wall was salvaged, and in 2009 it was restored and placed on the Riverwalk outside of PNC Parkmarker.

Meanwhile, the original location of that wall is outlined by bricks extending from the left-center field wall across Roberto Clemente Drive and into the sidewalk. A plaque embedded in the sidewalk marks the spot where Mazeroski's home run cleared the wall. The left-center and center field brick wall with "457 FT" and "436 FT" painted on it still stands at its original locaiton, along with the stadium's flagpole, adjacent to the University of Pittsburgh'smarker Mervismarker and Posvar Hallsmarker. This portion of the wall remained after Forbes Field was torn down, and was refurbished in 2006 in time for the All-Star Game hosted in Pittsburgh. In addition, a wooden replica of a entrance to the stadium, including a ticket window and players entrance, was constructed and placed near remaining wall in 2006. The home plate used in the stadium's final game remains preserved in the University of Pittsburgh's Posvar Hallmarker. However, its location has been altered; author John McCollister wrote, "Had architects placed home plate in its precise spot about half of the Pirates fans could not view it. The reason: it would have to be on display in the fifth stall of the ladies' restroom."

A ceremony is held each October 13 near at the outfield wall in Oakland to listen to a taped broadcast of the final game of the 1960 World Series. The tradition was started by Squirrel Hillmarker resident Saul Finkelstein, who at 1:05 pm on October 13, 1985, sat alone at the base of the flagpole and listened to the NBC radio broadcast of Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan. Finkelstein continued the tradition for eight more years, until word spread and other people began attending in 1993. On October 13, 2000—the game's 40th anniversary—over 600 people attended to listen to the broadcast, including Mazeroski himself.



Forbes Field on July 5, 1909.
In 1909, Forbes Field's opening season, the Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. It would be the only meeting of eventual Hall of Famersmarker Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb. In 1925, the Pirates became the first team to come back from a three game to one deficit to defeat the Washington Senators and win the World Series. Pittsburgh's third and final World Series championship while they played at Forbes Field came in 1960. Bill Mazeroski hit the first home run to end a World Series and as of 2007, the only walk-off home run in World Series Game Seven history. On October 2, 1920, Forbes Field hosted the last triple-header in MLB history. On August 5, 1921, Forbes Field was the site of the first MLB game broadcast on the radio. Harold Arlin announced the game over KDKAmarker from a box seat next to the first-base dugout. Two unassisted triple plays were turned at Forbes Field. The first took place on May 7, 1925, when Pittsburgh's Glenn Wright achieved the feat. Two seasons later, in 1927, Jimmy Cooney—who had been a victim of the first triple play—also acquired three outs by himself. Most of the game-action scenes from the 1951 film Angels in the Outfield were filmed at the stadium. On May 28, 1956, Dale Long of the Pirates took what one author has stated was the first-ever curtain call in baseball history, after his hitting home runs in eight consecutive game caused fans to cheer for five minutes.

The Homestead Grays of the Negro leagues played all home games at Forbes Field from 1922 to 1939. Gray's owner Cumberland Posey became friends with Dreyfuss, who rarely missed a Gray's game. In 1930, Josh Gibson made his premiere for the Grays at Forbes Field.Also in 1930, the Grays and the Kansas City Monarchs played the first baseball game at night in Pittsburgh on July 18, 1930. A crowd of over 15,000 was expected. Floodlights were installed the day before the game after they were transported from Clevelandmarker, where the Grays and Monarchs had played on July 16. Six members of the Grays' 1936 team have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker. Beginning in 1937, the Grays won nine consecutive Negro National League championships.


The University of Pittsburgh's football team moved from Exposition Parkmarker into Forbes Field upon its opening in 1909 and played there until 1924 when it moved into the larger Pitt Stadiummarker only a few blocks away. In their first game at Forbes Field on October 16, 1909, the Panthers defeated Bucknell Universitymarker 18–6. In 1910, Pitt's second year at Forbes Field, the Panthers went undefeated without allowing a single point. The Panthers had several successful seasons while playing at Forbes Field, including five in which they went undefeated and were awarded national championship titles in 1910, 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918. During their years at Forbes Field, Pitt's teams were led by Hall of Famemarker coaches Joe Thompson, Glenn "Pop" Warner and Jock Sutherland.

Pittsburgh native, Art Rooney founded his NFL team under the name the Pittsburgh Pirates, on July 8, 1933, for $2,500 ($ in present-day terms). The franchise's first game, against the New York Giants, was held on September 20, 1933, at Forbes Field. The Giants won the game 23–2 in front of 25,000 people. Rooney wrote of the game, "The Giants won. Our team looks terrible. The fans didn't get their money's worth." The Pirates would rebound to gain their first ever franchise victory a week later at Forbes Field, against the Chicago Cardinals. The NFL's Pirates were renamed the Steelers in 1940, and otherwise struggled during much of their three-decades of tenancy at Forbes. The club achieved its first winning record in 1942; its tenth season of existence. On November 30, 1952, the Steelers met the New York Giants at Forbes Field for a snowy afternoon game. Pittsburgh entered the game with a 3–6 record, but went on to set multiple team records, including scoring nine touchdowns, to win the game 63–7. Excited by their team's play, the 15,140 spectators ran onto the field and began to tear the field goal posts out of the ground. The University of Pittsburgh's acquisition of Forbes Field in 1958 gave the Steelers some options, and they began transferring some of their home games to the much larger Pitt Stadium that year. The Steelers played their final game at Forbes Field on December 1, 1963. The franchise would move to Pitt Stadium exclusively the following season.

Boxing and other events

Boxing bouts were held at Forbes Field from the 1910s to the 1950s, attracting crowds of over 15,000 people. On June 23, 1919, Harry "The Pittsburgh Windmill" Greb—the only boxer to beat Gene Tunney—defeated Mike Gibbons in a ten round bout at Forbes Field. On July 18, 1951, the heavyweight boxing championship was held at the stadium. In seven rounds, Ezzard Charles was knocked out by Jersey Joe Walcott. Another bout on September 25, 1939, was attended by 17,000 people including Art Rooney and Pie Traynor. Pittsburgh native Billy Conn defended his light heavyweight title against Melio Bettina, whom he had beaten months earlier. Conn won the bout by decision in 15 rounds. Two years later, on June 18, 1941, Conn fought Joe Louis at New York City's Polo Groundsmarker, in an attempt to become the world heavyweight champion. The Pirates and the New York Giants, who were playing at Forbes Field, were called into their dugouts while the 24,738 fans in attendance listened to the radio broadcast of the hour-long bout. Conn led the bout into the final round, but fought for the knockout and was knocked out himself.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration hosted a mine rescue and safety demonstration at Forbes on October 30, 1911. The event included first-aid and rescue demonstrations. Around 15,000 attended the event, including President William H. Taft. Forbes Field also hosted circuses and concerts.



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