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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Forbes Field - A cathedral in Pittsburgh

Unlike with any other sport, baseball fans identify with their team and the game beyond their own personal experiences. The Dodggers left Brooklyn well over a dozen years before I began following them. But they are as much a part of my baseball fandom as Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run, which I remember in minute detail. As much of a Steelers fan as I am, I don't identify with the 1945 squad. But I know all about Nap Rucker, who peaked in 1911.

Another example of this bond is the nostalgia for bygone ballparks. Football stadiums don't generate the same nostalgia and fondness as lost baseball parks. And on that note, my meandering path has a point. Today, in 1970, the Pittsburgh Pirates swept a double header from the Chicago Cubs (who still stink). It was the last day for baseball in Forbes Field.

The Steelers played their first 30 seasons at Forbes, but will always be the longtime home of the Pirates. Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss bought some land at a discount from his friend, Andrew Carenegie. Drefyuss was ridiculed because the area was a whopping TEN minute trolley ride from downtown Pittsburgh! Can you imagine?

Roberte Clemente running down a fly ball
in Forbes Field. The beauty of baseball

Opened in 1909, it was a marvel of the day. It was the first concrete and steel stadium, with three tiers. It was pretty much considered the finest baseball stadium in the majors upon its completion. The Pirates would play there until June 28 (See? Now this Note makes sense), 1970. They opened Forbes Field with a loss to the Cubs. They closed it with a victory of the Cubs after losing the opener of a double header.

Home plate was dug up and helicoptered over to shiny, new Three Rivers Park, where it was in place for the first game. A few elements of Forbes have been retained/recreated on the University of Pittsburgh campus, which now covers the area. And fans still gather annually at the site to celebrate Bill Mazeroski's World Series winning home run in 1960.

Forbes Field, a grand old dame, has not been forgotten in Pittsburgh.

3 comments:

  1. Nice article, But,they closed Forbes Field with a Double Header Sweep of the Cubs. Winning by scores of 3-2 & 4-1.

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  2. The very first ballpark made of steel and concrete was Shibe Park (Connie Mack Stadium) in Philadelphia. Construction of that park began in 1908, and the park opened on April 12th, 1909. Forbes Field was one of the first two parks with concrete/steel construction. Interestingly, Forbes' stadium design was done by Osborne Engineering, who also designed the original stadium areas of Comisky Park in Chicago in 1910.

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