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Forbes Field

From Academic Kids

Forbes Field was a Major League Baseball park in the Oakland district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It served as the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League from mid-1909 to mid-1970. It was also the home field of the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues from 1939 to 1948. The Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL (who were initially also called the "Pirates") used the stadium from 1933 to 1963 when they moved to nearby Pitt Stadium.

The park was built under the direction of Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss. It was named for a General John Forbes, and is perhaps the only major league baseball park named for an officer in the French and Indian War. Forbes' contribution to the area was having captured Fort Duquesne and renaming it Fort Pitt.

Forbes Field replaced Exposition Park. It is the only home the Pirates ever had that was not on the west bank of the Allegheny River. It was in an attractive setting, with Schenley Park and a large ravine beyond the outfield area. In its later years, the tall Cathedral of Learning on the nearby University of Pittsburgh campus afforded a breathtaking view of the ballpark, and it is from that tower that many "aerial" photos of the ballpark were taken.

On May 25 1935, the first home run was hit over the double-deck grandstand in right field, which, coincidentally, was Babe Ruth's final career home run. That was a target that Willie Stargell would broach a number of times in his early career with the Bucs. However, the most famous homer hit in Forbes Field was undoubtedly Bill Mazeroski's walkoff home run to win the 1960 World Series for the Pirates.

The flagpole, and a portion of the left and center field walls still exist on the Forbes Quadrangle portion of campus of the University of Pittsburgh. A bronze plaque indicates the portion over which Mazeroski's 1960 blast traveled. Home plate is preserved in its original location, under plexiglas in a hallway in one of the buildings occupying the site. The portions of the wall that still stand are also still covered in the same ivy that decorated its left and center field walls for decades, not as famously but the same way as Wrigley Field.

One artifact no longer there is the statue of John Peter "Honus" Wagner, the first great Pirates star and one of the five original inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame. That statue, which shows Wagner at bat, completing his swing, was moved to the entrance to Three Rivers Stadium and later to the entrance to PNC Park. In his playing days at shortstop, Wagner was said to have had a great range, and it is fair to say that ol' Honus is still getting around.

Forbes Field had an exceptionally large outfield, and during its 61-year history it never witnessed a no-hitter. After the extension of the right field stands into the outfield during the mid-1920s, the dimensions were pretty well set for most of the next 50 years, except during 1947-1953 when an inner fence reduced the left field area by 30 feet, to assist Pirates sluggers like Hank Greenberg and Ralph Kiner.

Missing image
Forbes_flagpole.jpg
Forbes Field flagpole, 6/6/1993

Posted Dimensions (final):

  • Left Field - 365 ft.
  • Left Center - 406 ft.
  • Deep Left Center - 457 ft. (the figure usually given as "Center Field")
  • True Center Field - Barney Dreyfuss monument - no posted distance
  • Deep Right Center Field - 436 ft.
  • Right Center - 375 ft.
  • Right Field - 300 ft.

Sources:

  • Green Cathedrals, by Phil Lowry
  • Lost Ballparks, by Lawrence Ritter
  • contemporary baseball annuals

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