Forbes field was a baseball green in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1909 to June 28, 1970. It was the 3rd home of the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball (MLB) team and the first home of the Pittsburgh stealers’, the city’s National Football League (NFL) franchise. The stadium also served as the home football field for the University of Pittsburgh “Pitt” Panthers from 1909 to 1924. The stadium was named after its adjacent street, Forbes Ave., for British general John Forbes, who fought in the French and Indian War and named the city in 1758.
History of Forbes Field
Planning and Design
In 1903, Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss began to look for ground to build a more extensive capacity replacement for the team’s then-current home, Exposition Park. Dreyfuss purchased seven acres of plan land near the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, adjacent to Schenley Park, with assistance from his friend, industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The low-priced land was selected so Dreyfuss could spend more on the stadium. Dreyfuss signed a contract that he would “make the ballpark .
Pittsburgh can now boast of the world’s finest baseball park. It is a marvel that people in other cities cannot have adequate conception until they come here and see it. On June 29, 1909, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Chicago Cubs by 8–1 at Exposition Park. The two teams opened Forbes Field the following day. Fans began to arrive at the starts 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.”
Playing Forbes Field
File: Forbes Field
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 actual distances to the outfield fence in left, canter, and rightfield. 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 clubhouse similar to the Pirates’. The façade of the stadium featured “buff-colored terra cotta,” spelling out “PAC” (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.
Seating and Tickets
Forbes Field’s original capacity was 25,000, the largest in the league at the times. 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 grandstand 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’ field views.
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 then younger than only Shibu Park in Philadelphia. Initially criticized for not being developed, the park’s location grew into a “bustling business district,” which led to a level 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, agreeing to lease the stadium to the Pirates until a replacement could be built.
Events of Forbes Field
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 Famers Honks Wagner and Ty Cobb. In 1925, the Pirates being 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 Maersk 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.
The University of Pittsburgh’s football team moved from Exposition Park into Forbes Field upon its opening in 1909 and played there until 1924 when it moved into the giant Pitt Stadium only a few blocks away. In their first game at Forbes Field on October 16, 1909, the Panthers defeated Bucknell University 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.
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” Grab 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, Izard 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.
The old Forbes Field stadium still stands, a monument to 60 years of baseball. It history in Pittsburgh and one historic home run. Built in 1909, Forbes Field was the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates until 1970. It would be the site of many historical events in Major League Baseball. The Pirates’ first season at Forbes Field ended with a World Series win over the Detroit Tigers. The last MLB tripleheader occurred here in 1920. Babe Ruth hit the last three home runs of his career in 1935. The Homestead Grays would also play home games there for 17 years.
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