Forbes Field, located in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, holds a special place in the hearts of sports fans. From its opening in 1909 to its closure in 1970, Forbes Field was not just a baseball stadium; it was a symbol of Pittsburgh’s rich sporting history. Home to the Pittsburgh Pirates, it witnessed countless memorable moments and championships. Let’s take a journey through the history of this iconic ballpark and explore its significance in the world of sports.
The Birth of Forbes Field
In the early 1900s, Barney Dreyfus, the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, sought to replace the team’s outdated home, Exposition Park. He envisioned a modern and durable stadium that could accommodate a growing fan base. With the assistance of industrialist Andrew Carnegie, Dreyfus acquired seven acres of land in Oakland, adjacent to Schenley Park. Construction on Forbes Field, named after General John Forbes, began on March 1, 1909.
Opening Day and Early Innovations
On June 30, 1909, Forbes Field hosted its inaugural game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs. The stadium’s three-tiered grandstand, constructed with steel and concrete, set a new standard for ballparks. Forbes Field was one of the first stadiums to introduce luxury suites and ramps for easy access to seats. It also featured elevators, a rarity at the time. The outfield wall served as the scoreboard, adding to the unique charm of the stadium.
Memorable Moments and Championships
Throughout its history, Forbes Field witnessed numerous historic moments. The Pittsburgh Pirates won three World Series championships while calling Forbes Field home. The 1909, 1925, and 1960 World Series victories were celebrated by fans who filled the stadium with their cheers. The 1960 World Series, in particular, is etched in baseball lore due to Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in Game 7, leading the Pirates to victory over the New York Yankees.
Forbes Field was not only a baseball stadium but also hosted other sporting events. The Pittsburgh Steelers, the city’s NFL franchise, played their home games at Forbes Field from 1933 to 1963. The stadium also saw college football action, as the University of Pittsburgh Panthers used Forbes Field as their home field from 1909 to 1924.
Structural Changes and Challenges
As the years passed, Forbes Field underwent several expansions and modifications. In 1925, the seating capacity was increased to 35,000, thanks to an extension of the double-decked grandstand down the first base line and into right field. The left field dimensions were modified after World War II to create a more hitter-friendly area known as “Greenberg Gardens” and later “Kiner’s Korner.”
However, Forbes Field’s age started to catch up with it by the 1950s. The University of Pittsburgh, recognizing the potential for expansion, purchased the stadium in 1958. The decision led to the construction of Three Rivers Stadium, a modern multipurpose venue that would serve as the new home for both the Pirates and the Steelers.
The End of an Era
On June 28, 1970, Forbes Field hosted its final game. The Pittsburgh Pirates played a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs, the same team they faced on Opening Day in 1909. The closure of Forbes Field marked the end of an era for Pittsburgh sports. The final out was recorded by Pirates pitcher Dave Giusti, and fans flooded the field to collect mementos from the historic stadium.
Sadly, Forbes Field faced its demise as two fires damaged the structure in late 1970 and mid-1971. The stadium was subsequently demolished, making way for the expansion of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus. Today, the site of Forbes Field is occupied by the university’s library and dormitories.
Remembering Forbes Field
Although Forbes Field is no longer standing, its legacy lives on in the hearts of sports fans. The iconic left field wall, over which Bill Mazeroski hit his famous home run, was preserved and now stands outside the Pirates’ current home, PNC Park. The statue of Honus Wagner, a legendary Pirates player, was relocated to PNC Park as well. Fans continue to gather on the anniversary of Mazeroski’s home run, honoring the history and memories created at Forbes Field.
Forbes Field holds a special place in Pittsburgh’s sporting history. It was a venue that witnessed triumphs, championships, and unforgettable moments. While the physical stadium may be gone, its spirit lives on, reminding us of the rich heritage of Pittsburgh sports.
Forbes Field, the beloved home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was more than just a baseball stadium. It was a symbol of Pittsburgh’s passion for sports and a witness to countless historic moments. From its innovative design to the championships won within its walls, Forbes Field left an indelible mark on the city’s sporting landscape. Though it may be gone, its memory lives on, continuing to inspire and captivate fans to this day.
Fun Facts About Forbes Field
Who hit the first home run OUT of Forbes Field?
On May 25, 1935, at Forbes Field, the Boston Braves were defeated 11-7 by the Pirates. During the game, Babe Ruth accomplished a milestone by hitting 3 home runs, with his last one becoming the first to clear the right field stands roofline. It would be the last time he would achieve such a feat in his career. Only 19 balls, hit by 10 different players ever cleared the roof.
How Many Home Runs Did Willie Stargell Hit out of Forbes Field?
Respected in Pittsburgh for his skill in the game and his amiable attitude, Stargell sent seven of all the home runs ever to fly over Forbes Field’s 86-foot-high right-field wall and some of the home runs to the upper tier at Three Rivers Stadium.
When Was The First World Series Played in Forbes Field?
Forbes Field’s inaugural season, 1909, saw the Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. It was the only time Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb met on the field opposing each other.
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