Forbes Field (1909-1970)
Comments by Nellie King after Final Game at Forbes Field
The final game at Forbes Field was the second game of a Sunday afternoon double header with the Chicago Cubs. With Bob Prince, I was fortunate to broadcast this memorable day in the history of the City of Pittsburgh and Pirate baseball.
This photo of the last game played at Forbes Field was a gift from Harry Cochanauer, a longtime photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Recently retired, eager to enjoy retirement, Harry was stricken with a terminal illness.
Prior to his passing, he asked me to stop by to see him, stating he had a photo he wanted me to have. In a very kind and thoughtful gesture he handed me a photo of the final game at Forbes Field.
This is a copy of that original photo. Included with the photo is a copy of the original scorecard Bob Prince and I used for the broadcast. The lineups on the scorecard were made out between games by "Radio Rich", Bob Prince's loyal statistician.
Construction of Forbes Field began on March 1, 1909. It was opened four months later, June 30, 1909. A crowd of 30,338, then the largest Pittsburgh crowd ever to see a baseball game, saw the Pirates lose 3-2 to the Cubs.
In a bit of irony the last game at Forbes Field played June 28, 1970, was just two days short of 61 years of the date it opened, and against the same team, the Chicago Cubs. The largest Forbes Field crowd was 44,932 for Prize Day, September 23, 1956. I was one of seven Pirate pitchers who saw action that day in an 8-2 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers and Don Newcombe.
Forbes Field was the scene of many memorable moments in Pirate history. The most dramatic was Bill Mazeroski's historic home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh and final game of the 1960 World Series.
With the game tied at nine, Mazeroski homered on the second pitch from Yankee reliever Ralph Terry to give the Pirates a 10-9 win and the World Series Championship. It created the greatest spontaneous celebration ever in Pittsburgh sports history.
Mazeroski appropriately had the last Pirate hit at Forbes Field, a double to left center in the seventh inning. Fittingly he also recorded the final out in the field. Fielding a ground ball by Don Kessinger he touched second base to retire Willie Smith, who as a pinch hitter, registered the last hit at Forbes Field.
Jim Nelson was the winning pitcher. Reliever Dave Giusti, the winning pitcher in the day's first game, saved the final game for the Pirates. Al Oliver hit the last home run at Forbes Field.
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from the Final Game - June 28, 1970
Wikipedia: Forbes Field.
A Brief History of Forbes Field
Forbes Field, one of the classic ballparks in the history of Major League Baseball, was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates for six decades. Prior to 1909, the Pirates played their home games at Exposition Park on the Allegheny riverfront in Pittsburgh. When Barney Dreyfuss became owner of the team in 1900, he soon began looking for a suitable location to build a new stadium.
Dreyfuss eventually purchased seven acres of land at Schenley Farms, near the University of Pittsburgh. Although three miles from the city, the land was attractive due to it's reduced price.
On March 1, 1909, construction of one of the first steel and concrete ballparks began. The $1 million stadium was completed in four months and named Forbes Field, after General John Forbes, a French and Indian War hero.
The Pirates played their first game at Forbes Field on June 30, 1909. Forbes Field was ahead of its time in many ways, offering amenities not seen before in Major League ballparks.
A three-tier grandstand extended from behind home plate down both the first and third base lines. Forbes Field was one of the first stadiums to have luxury suites that were located in the third tier of the grandstand.
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The ballpark also had ramps to guide people to their seats and elevators to the third level. Additional bleacher seating extended to both the left and right field foul poles. As for it's outer appearance, Forbes Field had one of the grandest facades ever built. It featured a buff colored terra cotta with steel painted light green and a red tinted slate roof.
As attendance increased in the 1920s, the stadium was expanded. In 1925 the double-decked grandstand was extended down the first base line and around to right center field, increasing capacity to 35,000. A press box, nicknamed the Crows Nest, was constructed in 1938 above the grandstand roof behind home plate.
Forbes Field featured an ivy covered wall in left and left center field and a hand operated scoreboard, complete with a large clock attached at the top. The scoreboard was part of the left field wall.
Lights were added in 1940 for night games. The three cages of outfield light standards were all located in the field of play, making for some interesting ricochets and contributing to several triples and inside the park homers.
When the Pirates acquired slugger Hank Greenberg in 1947, the left field wall was moved in thirty feet and the bullpens located in the space between the wall and the scoreboard. This area became known as Greenberg Gardens.
Later, when Ralph Kiner joined the team, the Gardens became known as Kiner's Korner. In 1954 the bullpens were moved back to their original locations along the first and third base lines and the scoreboard once again became the left field wall.
Forbes Field was the scene of four World Series (1909, 1925, 1927 and 1960) and two All-Star games (1944 and 1959). In addition to being the home of the Pirates, Forbes Field was also home to the Pitt Panthers from 1909 to 1924, and the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1933 to 1957.
From 1958 until 1963 the Steelers played home games at both Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium. The Homestead Grays called Forbes Field home from 1922 through 1939, and up to the 1950s the stadium hosted several championship boxing matches.
Boxing was another marquee attraction at Forbes Field. Once a national epicenter for pugilism, Pittsburgh has a long and storied boxing heritage. One such chapter played out on July 18, 1951, when Ezzard Charles met Jersey Joe Walcott at Forbes Field for the heavyweight championship of the world.
This was the third meeting between the two legendary boxers, with reigning champ Charles winning both of their earlier bouts.
However, on this night in Pittsburgh, the third time was the charm for Jersey Joe as he knocked out Charles in seven rounds to claim the title. At age thirty-seven, this made Arnold "Jersey Joe Walcott" Cream the oldest man ever to win the world heavyweight crown, a distinction he held until George Foreman won the title at age forty-five in 1994.
The University of Pittsburgh, in anticipation of future expansion, bought Forbes Field for $2 million in November 1958. By the early 1960s Forbes Field had begun to show signs of deterioration and plans were put in place for a replacement. Ground was broken for Three Rivers Stadium, a multi-purpose venue, in April 1968, close to the location where Exposition Park once stood on the banks of the Allegheny River across from downtown Pittsburgh. The new stadium was completed in 1970.
The Pirates played their final game at Forbes Field on June 28, 1970. After the game fans scrambled onto the field to scavenge anything they could for a souvenir.
In 1971, two fires did irreparable structural damage and Forbes Field was soon razed to the ground. By 1973, demolition was complete and only a few remnants remained. The site of the old field is now the home to the University of Pittsburgh's Hillman Library and campus dormitories.
Wikipedia: Forbes Field.
Images of Forbes Field over the Years
Pirate Legend Bill Mazeroski
The date was October 13, 1960. The Pirates and Yankees were tied at 9-9 in the seventh and final game of the World Series. Post-Gazette photographer Jim Klingensmith was on the stadium roof trying out his new repeating camera. On nothing more than a hunch, he began snapping photos as Bill Mazeroski took the swing that launched the homer heard 'round the 'Burgh.
When the series of photos ended with Mazeroski surrounded by his teammates at home plate, not only had Maz become an instant legend, but Klingensmith had captured an award winning sequence of pictures. Those photos ended up adorning the walls of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
On June 19, 2009, on his 99th birthday, Jim Klingensmith was honored at PNC Park as part of a weekend of events paying tribute to the 1960 Pirates. Read the Post-Gazette article: "Mazeroski Photographer Honored By Pirates".
On September 5, 2010, Bill Mazeroski was immortalized in a fitting tribute to the man and his many achievements as a Pirate. On that day, the Pirate organization unveiled the Bill Mazeroski statue outside PNC Park. Mazeroski joined Pirate-greats Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell as the only players so honored.
Photos From One of the Final Games - June 1970
Joseph Brendel was present for one of the Pirates final homestands at Forbes Field on June 21, 1970. The Pirates were playing the Montreal Expos. The photo below with the Cathedral of Learning towering in the background is fantastic, as well as the images of Pirate legend Roberto Clemente.
Joe's son Douglas shares a couple of his Forbes Field memories:
I remember my Dad taking me and my brother Chris to Forbes Field in 1972 and 1973 during the demolition process. I remember going into the scoreboard and seeing graffiti "names and dates" of people who had worked the old scoreboard over the years.
But, my biggest memory of the destruction was a lone baseball shoe, just lying on the ground near the home plate area. I should have saved it. I saw four games at Forbes Field with the Cub Scouts.
My two most vivid memories of Forbes Field when it was open: It smelled like stale beer and mustard, and after the games we walked on the actual field to exit at the right center field gate. The grass was so thick it was like walking on air.
Doug's passion for Forbes Field continues to this day. On September 5, 2010, he was present at the Tribute To Maz when the Mazeroski Monument was unveiled. A section of the stadium wall, preserved after forty years, has found a permanent home as part of the display. For those who experienced the majesty of the Pirates old home, the passion will never die.
Forbes Field Demolition - 1971/1973
One Family's Forbes Field Memories
That's my mom, Patricia Burton, and her cousin Chookie Meyers getting an autographed ball from one of the greatest men to ever play the game of baseball, Honus Wagner, at Forbes Field in 1948.
A year later she had another ball signed by Pirate Johnny Hopp and the rest of the Pirates team in July of 1949. That autographed ball, which included Pirate Manager Honus Wagner, second baseman Danny Murtaugh, announcer Rosey Rosewall and New York Giant manager Leo Durocher still sits on our mantelpiece. These balls are but two in a long list of my family's Forbes Field memories.
Mom had an inside track. Her father, Dan McGibbeny, a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, covered Pirate games back in the 40s and 50s. As a child she spent many days tagging along while my grandfather went about his duties with the club. He himself had a special relationship with several players, including Pirate legend, Ralph Kiner.
My father's memories of Forbes Field also run deep. A lifelong Pirate fan, he was selling newspapers during the 1960 World Series, and after Game Six had a copy signed by most members of the team.
It hung for years on a wall in our family home. Dad was also present when Bill Mazeroski hit the winning home run in Game Seven. He never made it home that night, having gotten stranded by the wild celebration in downtown Pittsburgh.
In 1961, several members of the Brookline Little League's Kiwanis team had their special day at Forbes Field, meeting with several coaches and players, including legendary Pirates like Bob Skinner, Danny Murtaugh and Roberto Clemente.
As for myself, I only remember going to one game at Forbes Field in the spring of 1970, but I do remember Willie Stargell "spreading some chicken on the hill" by smashing a homerun high into the seats in right field.
My special Pirate memories happened a little later, at Three Rivers Stadium, where the Pirates helped transform Pittsburgh into the "City of Champions" during the 1970s. Among the most treasured items is a photo of myself with Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski, taken in the summer of 1971.
Forbes Field Relics - Hallowed Ground Preserved
Small bits and pieces of Forbes Field still occupy a place in the Pittsburgh landscape. Some were scavenged by fans after the final game and now occupy spots in various Pittsburgh basements.
Other pieces of Forbes Field history occupy a more ceremonious location, like home plate, which resides in the University of Pittsburgh's Hillman Library, in Posvar Hall. The plate resides approximately fifteen feet from it's historical spot. If it was in the proper GPS location it would reside in one of the women's restroom stalls.
A section of the outfield wall, from right-center field, marked 436 feet, still stands near the Cathedral of Learning, ivy included. The photo above shows Mrs. Jean Brendel standing near the section of the Forbes Field right-center field wall in 1975.
Jean was life-long Pirate fan, from 1942 until her passing in 2008. Jean grew up in Greentree, where she played catch with Frankie Gustine back in the 1940's. Major Leaguers Frank Thomas and Bob Perkey were good friends.
A fine ballplayer herself, Mrs. Brendel and her husband Joseph passed on their love of the game to her three sons, Michael, Douglas and Chris. Another section of wall marked 457 feet stands nearby.
A bronze plaque in Oakland marks the spot where Bill Mazeroski's sudden-victory 1960 World Series winning homer sailed over the wall and into history.
As for the section of wall, over which Mazeroski's epic blast sailed to defeat the mighty New York Yankees, it was taken from Forbes Field in March 1970 and moved to the Allegheny Club in Three Rivers Stadium, where it stood for thirty years. Prior to the demolition of Three Rivers Stadium in February 2001, the wall was again moved, this time to the Pirates new home at PNC Park.
The hallowed section of wall sat in storage until being displayed briefly in June 2009. Then, in the Summer of 2010, the wall was put back into temporary storage with plans to relocate it as a backdrop for the Bill Mazeroski monument.
This tribute, one to the man whose achievements have symbolized the pride and spirit of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, was unveiled on September 5, 2010. It was Bill Mazeroski's 74th birthday.
Barney Dreyfuss was the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900 until his death in 1932. During his period of ownership, the Pirates won six National League pennants and World Series titles in 1909 and 1925. He is often credited with the creation of the World Series.
A center field Memorial was erected in 1932, in the actual field of play. The Memorial, which resembles a tombstone adorned by a bronze plaque, was moved to the Gate A entrance at Three Rivers Stadium. Today it is displayed in PNC Park.
Another Forbes Field artifact that has been on the move since 1970 is the statue of Pirate great Honus Wagner. Originally unveiled on April 30, 1955, the monument stood for fifteen years outside Forbes Field, then was moved to Gate C outside Three Rivers Stadium. In 2001 the statue was moved to its present location outside the main gate at PNC Park.
In 2006, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission erected a plaque marking the spot of Forbes Field in Oakland. The marker notes the historical significance of Forbes Field and notes a few memorable moments.
One for the record books occurred in 1935 when Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, hit his final three home runs in a game between the Pirates and the Boston Braves. The Babe's final homer, #714 for his career, was the first to sail over the right field roof. It was a feat accomplished by only nine other players.
These several items, along with sixty years of individual memories, are lasting monuments to the memory of one of baseball's greatest stadiums, Forbes Field.
Photos From The 1960 World Series
Buried in a box that belonged to an old sports-writer were these Associated Press photos from the 1960 World Series. These are memories that will never be forgotten.
The city of Pittsburgh has witnessed many magical times in it's long history. The seven games of the 1960 World Series, culminating with the final game at Forbes Field was, arguably, Pittsburgh's finest moment.
Photos of Pirates Who Played at Forbes Field
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