It's a sunny afternoon in late Summer
1909 and you're on a ten minute trolley ride from
downtown Pittsburgh to the neighborhood of Oakland.
Where are you headed? To the Pirates new ballpark,
Forbes Field, as the team is in the midst of winning
110 games and going onto the 1909 World Series. It
replaced the 16,000 seat wooden Exposition Park
along the Allegheny River. 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
as it flooded often. Business tycoon Andrew Carnegie
helped Dreyfus purchase seven acres of the Mary
Schenley estate three miles from downtown
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.
On June 30,1909, with future Hall of
Fame member Honus Wagner at shortstop, the the
Pirates hosted the Chicago Cubs in the first game at
Forbes Field in front of 30,388 fans.
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. It 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.
Throughout the early 1920s Forbes Field became inadequate as fans
had to stand on the field in order to watch the Pirates play. In
1925 a $750,000 expansion was completed increasing the seating
capacity to 35,000. The double decked grandstand was extended down
the first base line and around into right field. 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.
By the late 1950s and early 1960s Forbes Field was
beginning to show its age and becoming obsolete.
Located next to the campus of the University of
Pittsburgh, the university purchased the ballpark in
November 1958 for $2 million to expand its campus.
This led to the eventual demise of Forbes Field and
the City of Pittsburgh built a new multipurpose
Three Rivers Stadium, for the Pirates and the
Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL). The final game at Forbes
Field was on June 28, 1970 as the Pirates played a
doubleheader against the Cubs, who they had played
the first game ever at Forbes Field in 1909.
Following the final out fans scrambled onto the
field for souvenirs. Forbes Field was damaged by two
fires before being demolished in July 1971. Relics
from the ballpark, including stadium seats were sold
for $5 each. Not only was Forbes Field the home of
the Pirates, but the Steelers for three decades, the
Pitt Panthers (NCAA) from 1909 to 1924 and numerous
other sporting and entertaining events. The location
of Forbes Field is now the site of the University of
Pittsburgh library and dorms. Homeplate remains on
display in its final location of part of the
original brick left field wall remains standing.
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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