Historical Markers
Forbes Field Historical Marker
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Forbes Field

Pittsburgh Region


Marker Location:
Roberto Clemente Dr. near S. Bouquet St., by remaining Forbes Field wall, University of Pittsburgh campus, Oakland section of Pittsburgh

Dedication Date:
July 7, 2006

Behind the Marker

"Pittsburgh can now boast of the world's finest baseball park. It is a marvel of which people in other cities an have no adequate conception until marker they come here and see it."

Football players play on the field of a stadium while spectators watch.
The Pittsburgh Pirates playing the Chicago White Sox at Exposition Field, Pittsburgh,...
Granted, Pirates manager Fred Clarke may have been a bit prejudiced with his observations upon the opening of his team's new stadium in 1909, but for decades Forbes Field's patrons would find it hard to disagree. With its brick façade, its string of arches on the lower-level, and multiple tiers reaching out from behind home plate like embracing arms, Forbes Field was one of the most distinctive ballparks in Major League history, and also one of the most historically significant. It was the first to locate beyond a city center, and the first, along with Philadelphia's markerShibe Park, ich opened the same season, to be constructed of concrete and steel instead of wood. In 1921, KDKA aired the first live radio broadcast of a Major League game from Forbes Field, and sixteen years later, Babe Ruth hit the final three home runs of his career - all in one game - with the storied 714th the first to soar beyond the park's right field upper deck. In the 1940s, Forbes Field was the first stadium to pad its hard outfield walls for players' safety. Yet, in more than 4,000 games played over sixty-two years, there was one piece of history Forbes Field could never claim: no one ever hurled a no-hitter within its confines.

Yet, for all that took place there, as the stadium was being built, critics were calling it Dreyfuss's Folly. At the end of the 1908 season, team owner markerBarney Dreyfuss decided it was time that Pittsburgh had a new, larger stadium for the growing fan base his winning ballclub, led by stars like markerHonus Wagnerand player-manager Clarke, was attracting. The old one, Exposition Park, was wooden and rickety and so close to the banks of the Allegheny River that the outfield regularly flooded after heavy rains. Across the state in Philadelphia, owners Ben Shibe and markerConnie Mack had decided to build a modern venue for the Athletics. The proud Dreyfuss had not intention of being about to be one-upped.

Photograph of the Field in the background and a crowd of people walking, horse drawn wagons and other vehicles stretching far into the foreground on a road that leads to the field.
Forbes Field soon after its opening, Pittsburgh, PA, July 5, 1909.
He found a new location in the new Oakland section, the under development by markerAndrew Carnegie. With Carnegie's help, Dreyfuss negotiated a deal that gave him seven acres of Schenly Park, three miles from the center of downtown. "There was nothing there but a livery stable and a hot house, with a few cows grazing over the countryside," Dreyfuss recalled years later. But trolley lines were already in place to connect it with the rest of the city. So what if his critics complained that his new park would be too remote, too ornate, too large, and too expensive. Dreyfuss knew that with his ballpark - named for John Forbes, the French and Indian War general who captured markerFort Duquesne in 1758 and renamed it markerFort Pitt - at its hub, the neighborhood would only blossom.

The park, with a then-staggering $1 million price tag, opened on June 30, 1909, and although the Pirates lost that afternoon to Chicago, Dreyfuss, who shook hands with the fans as they entered, always considered it one of the triumphant days of his life. The crowd included Pittsburgh Mayor William A. Magee, National League President Harry C. Pulliam, and Congressman markerJohn K. Tener, a former Major Leaguer who was soon to become the governor of Pennsylvania.

Color image of the field and stands.
Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, circa 1960.
Led by Wagner and Clarke, the Pirates went on to win both the National League pennant and the World Series that inaugural season. The Pirates won the World Series again in 1925, the pennant in 1927, and, in perhaps the most memorable moment in Forbes Field's history, the 1960 World Series, when Pirate second-baseman Bill Mazeroski hit the walk-off homer over the left field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game against the Yankees.

Through the years, the stadium went through renovations that expanded the grandstands, added seating, and changed the field dimensions. To help sluggers Hank Greenberg and Ralph Kiner in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Pirates' owners installed a chainlink fence in front of the scoreboard to shorten left field. Fans dubbed the space between the fence and the wall Greenberg Gardens in 1947, then Kiner's Korner from 1948-1953. In 1944 and 1959, Forbes Field hosted the All-Star Game.

A birds eye view of Three Rivers Stadium in the daylight, The Manchester Bridge (right) and Fort Duquesne Bridge (left) are also pictured in the background.
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Three Rivers Stadium, circa 1970.
Though the Pirates were tenants from beginning to end, other teams also called the stadium home. The powerful markerHomestead Grays of the Negro Leagues played here from 1939-1948, and the University of Pittsburgh played football at Forbes Field from 1909-1925, winning four national championships. The Steelers used the stadium, as well, from 1933-1963. Pittsburgh prize fighters, including Harry Greb, Fritzie Zivic, and Billy Conn, fought in its ring many times in matches promoted by, among others, Steeler founder and owner markerArt Rooney. Forbes Field also witnessed important boxing history in 1951 when Jersey Joe Walcott took the heavyweight crown from Ezzard Charles.

With an eye toward someday expanding its campus, the University of Pittsburgh bought Forbes Field, for $2 million, in November of 1958. That day arrived in the late 1960s when plans for the new multi-purpose Three Rivers Stadium were unveiled. By then, Forbes Field seemed terribly run down and out of date. The Pirates played their last game there on June 28, 1970, and after two fires, the stadium was demolished in July of 1971.

Vestiges of Forbes Field, however, have survived. Parts of the brick outfield wall and the old home plate remain on display on the south end of the Pitt campus surrounded by the library and dorms. Posvar Hall was built atop the infield once patrolled by Wagner, Mazeroski, Pie Traynor, Dick Groat, and Arky Vaughan, and where sluggers Willie Stargell, Greenberg, Kiner, Roberto Clemente, Max Carey, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, and KiKi Cuyler used to regularly circle the bases.
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