As one of the classic
ballparks in Major League Baseball history, Forbes Field was home to
the Pittsburgh Pirates for over six decades. Prior to moving to Forbes Field, the Pirates
Exposition Park in Pittsburgh. This ballpark was located along
the Allegheny River, near PNC Park today, and was the home of the
Pirates since April 1891. Businessman Barney Dreyfus bought the
Pirates in 1900 and within several years began looking for site to
construct a ballpark to replace the small wooden Exposition Park.
Dreyfus bought seven acres at Schenley Farms near Carnegie
Mellon University, three miles from Pittsburgh because of its cheap price.
On March 1, 1909 construction of one of the first steel and concrete
ballparks began. Within four months the ballpark was completed and
named after General John Forbes, a French and Indian War hero.
The Pirates played
their first game at Forbes Field against the Chicago Cubs on June
30, 1909. Forbes Field helped usher in a new wave of ballparks
featuring elements that had never been seen in ballparks before. A
three tier grandstand extended from behind homeplate down both the
first and third base lines. Forbes Field became one
of the first ballparks to have luxury suites that were located on
the third tier of the grandstand. The ballpark was the first to have
ramps to take people to their seats and elevators to take patrons to
the third level. One level of seating
extended to both the left and right field foul poles and bleachers were
located in left and center fields. The scoreboard was part of the
outfield wall in left field. Original dimensions at Forbes Field
were 360 ft. (left), 462 ft. (center), and 376 ft. (right). Forbes
Field had one of the grandest exteriors of any ballpark ever built.
The facade featured a buff colored terra cotta with steel painted
light green and red tinted slate roof.
As attendance increased
in the 1920s the team decided to increase the capacity of Forbes
Field. In 1925 the double decked grandstand was extended down the
first base line and around into right field. This increased the
capacity to 35,000 and reduced the distance to right field from 376
to 300 feet. A press box that became known as the
"Crows Nest" was constructed in 1938 on the top of the grandstand roof
Following other teams in baseball, the first night
game played at Forbes Field was on June 4, 1940. Originally the
bullpens were located in foul territory down the first and third
base lines. After the Pirates acquired slugger Hank Greenberg they
moved the left field in 30 feet to 330 feet after World War II. This
area became known as Greenberg Gardens and later Kiner's Korner when
Ralph Kiner became part of the Pirates. Forbes Field featured an ivy
covered brick wall in left and left-center field. The main hand
operated scoreboard featured a Longines clock was located in left
field. The cages of three light towers in the outfield were in play
making for some interesting plays as many triples and inside the
park homeruns were hit at Forbes Field. It was known as one of the
hardest ballparks to hit a homerun at.
Until its closing,
Forbes Field changed little. Other than being the home of the
Pirates, Forbes Field was the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL). The
University of Pittsburgh bought Forbes Field for $2 million in
November 1958 as the campus would eventually expand. By the early
1960s Forbes Field began to deteriorate.
A new multipurpose stadium,
Three Rivers Stadium was constructed and was completed by
1970. The Pirates played their last game at Forbes Field on June 28, 1970. After
the game fans scrambled onto the field taking anything they
could get for souvenirs. Forbes Field
was damaged by two fires before being demolished in July 1971. The field
is now the site of a University of Pittsburgh library and dorms.
Home plate remains on display in its final location and part of the
left field wall still stands.
FACTS & FIGURES
25,000 (original), 35,000 (final)
June 30, 1909
-Closed: June 28, 1970
360-L, 422-C, 376-R (original) 365-L, 400-C, 329-R (final)
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