Posts Tagged ‘Forbes Field’

Rickwood Field – Baseball’s Time Capsule

September 19th, 2013

Rickwood Field, located at 1137 2nd St W, in Birmingham, Alabama, is a century-old time capsule of America’s National Pastime. It is recognized by the Historic American Building Survey as the country’s oldest surviving baseball park.

Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Constructed by Birmingham Barons owner Rick Woodward (hence the name), the first professional game  played there was a contest between the Barons and the Montgomery Climbers on August 18, 1910. This was approximately two years before the opening of Fenway Park, major league baseball’s oldest surviving ballpark.

Ridkwood Field, As Seen From 11th Street

Rickwood was the first concrete and steel minor league ballpark constructed in the United States. The stadium’s facade is truly remarkable for its unspoiled, vintage appearance, and would be worthy of a photo essay all its own.

Rickwood Field Third Base Side Grandstand

The first base side grandstand runs the length of the ballfield and wraps around behind right field.

Rickwood Field First Base Side Grandstand

Two historic plaques honor the history of Rickwood Field. The first plaque, erected by the Alabama Historical Commission in 1996, recognizes Rickwood Field’s placement on the National Register for Historic Places.

Rickwood Field Historic Marker

The second plaque, erected by the Alabama Tourism Department in 2010, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first game played at Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field Historic Marker Noting Opening Day 1910

The distinctive Mission style front entrance to Rickwood Field was added in 1928.

Mission Style Front Entrance to Rickwood Field

On the first base side of the ballpark, past the front entrance, is a sign welcoming visitors to a guided tour of the ballpark. Free pamphlets are available there for visitors to take along on their tour.

Rickwood Field's Self Guided Tour

The main entrance way to the ballpark appears much as it did in 1940.

Rickwood Field Front Entrance Turnstiles

A chalkboard listing the players for the day’s contest sits just to the right beyond the turnstiles.

Lineup From 2013 Rickwood Classic

Rickwood was home to the Southern Association (later Southern League) Birmingham Barons from 1910 until 1987.

Field of Dreams, Alabama Style

It also was home to the Birmingham Black Barons from 1920 until 1963. The Black Barons played in various leagues over the years including the Negro Southern League, the Negro National League, and the Negro American League.

Rickwood Field Tower

Notable players who called Rickwood Field their home included Hall of Famers Willie Mays (a native of Birmingham), Sachel Paige, Willie Wells, George Suttles, Bill Foster, Pie Traynor, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, and Burleigh Grimes.

Rickwood Field Third Base Dugout

During the design phase of Rickwood Field, Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack served as a consultant. The field and stadium were patterned after Forbes Field and Shibe Park. Both the Philadelphia Phillies (1911, 1920) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1919) held their spring training at Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field View From the First Base Dugout

The distinctive cantilevered light stanchions date to 1936, when Rickwood became one of the first minor league facilities to host night baseball.

Louvered Windows at Rickwood Field

The steel and wood roof is a visual masterpiece. The supports for that roof, placed one per section, provide vintage obstructed views of the field.

Right Field Seating Rickwood Field

Rickwood Field currently has a seating capacity of 10,800. All of the original seating has long since been replaced.

Obstructed View At Rickwood Field Is Part of the Charm

The first base side grandstand, which wraps around to right field, was designed after Forbes Field, which had a similar wrap around, right field grandstand.

View From the Right Field Grandstand

The concrete outfield fence dating to 1928 sits behind the “newer” wooden fence. In 1948 Walt Dropo famously hit a home run over the wooden fence that hit the concrete fence on the fly.

Original Outfield Wall at Rickwood Field

Although long since replaced, at one time Rickwood Field could boast having wooden box seats and wooden row seats from the Polo Grounds, with wrought iron “NY” emblems at the end of each row. In the 1970s the seats were replaced and, for a time, could be purchased at nearby Legion Field in Birmingham.

Gambling Not Permitted at Rickwood Field

Because Rickwood Field offers so much to see, including the colorful outfield wall signage  and the recreated scoreboard, as well as so many great angles from which to photograph the ballpark, I have included a four minute video meant to capture the feel of the ballpark.

If you would like to see more photographs of Rickwood Field taken by a professional photographer, please visit Lou Dina at dinagraphics.com. As you can see from the picture below, Lou has an amazing eye for detail.

Today the Birmingham Barons play their home games at Regions Field. From 1988 until 2012, they played at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Once a year, since 1996, however, the Barons return to Rickwood Field to take part in the Rickwood Classic. Held typically on a Wednesday around the last week of May, the game is an official Southern League contest that helps insure professional baseball is still a part of Rickwood’s present and future.

Regions Field, Home of the Birmingham Barons

Friends of Rickwood has been the caretaker of Rickwood Field since 1992. If you are interested in reading more about their organization or how you can help insure the preservation of the ballpark, visit them at rickwood.com. Baseball fans owe that organization a debt of gratitude helping insure that Rickwood Field never becomes just another lost ballpark.

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Forbes Field – Game Over

March 11th, 2012

My earlier post, Forbes Field and the University of Pittsburgh, focuses on the portion of the original outfield wall that remains at the former site of Forbes Field, now part of the University of Pittsburgh.

Forbes Field Postcard (Published by Minsky Bros. & Co. Pittsburgh) 

The original outfield wall is not the only artifact of Forbes Field remaining at the site.

Pennsylvania Historical Plaque for Forbes Field

The former location of home plate is inside Wesley Posvar Hall, a six-story building constructed by the University of Pittsburgh in the mid 1970’s.

University of Pittsburgh’s Wesley Posvar Hall

A plaque outside Posvar Hall recognizes Barney Dreyfus, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900 to 1932.

Pennsylvania Historical Plaque Honoring Barney Dreyfuss

The actual home plate from Forbes Field is encased in glass and set into the floor in its “approximate” former location.

Forbes Field Home Plate

Hung on a wall next to home plate  is a photograph of Forbes Field taken from the Cathedral of Learning, which is located several blocks beyond what was once left field.

Former and Present Location of Forbes Field Home Plate

About 90 feet from the home plate marker inside Posvar Hall is an oil portrait of Wesley W. Posvar, the University’s 15th chancellor.

Oil Painting of Chancellor Posvar

Outside Posvar Hall is a line of of bricks that lead across Roberto Clemente Drive to where the remnants of the outfield wall begin. About 15 feet tall, and perhaps 180 feet long, the wall is constructed of red brick and divided by concrete columns spaced 12 feet apart.  The columns are covered in green paint and the wall is capped with blocks of weathered grey granite. Next to the wall is the original center field flag pole.

Original Forbes Field Wall on Campus of University of Pittsburgh

The wall ends at what once was the right-field pavilion.  For additional pictures of the Forbes Field wall, check out my earlier post, Forbes Field and the University of Pittsburgh.

Backside of Forbes Field Wall with Posvar Hall Visible Beyond Wall

Behind the Forbes Field wall is a youth baseball diamond.

Youth Baseball Diamond Behind Forbes Field Wall (to the right)

Also behind the wall is a replica of the entrance to Forbes Field.

Replica Entrance to Forbes Field

Constructed of wood, the entrance way replicates the cream-colored, tiled facade of Forbes Field.

Sign Attached to Replica of Forbes Field’s Entrance

Behind what would have been the right field pavilion is the top landing of a concrete stairway with painted aqua green pipe hand rails.  The stairway once provided ballpark access for fans arriving from Joncaire Street in Panther Hollow.

Stairway Behind Forbes Field’s Right Field Pavilion

Next to PNC Park, the Pirates current home, is a statute of Bill Mazeroski crossing home plate, in honor of his 1960 World Series walk of home run. Part of the fence surrounding the plaza includes a portion of the Forbes Field brick wall – marked “306 FT” – which was removed during the demolition of the ballpark and resided for a while at Three River Stadium. It was this portion of the Forbes Field wall that Mazeroski’s famous home run cleared for the game winner.

Bill Mazeroski Statue Located Outside PNC Park Just West of Exposition Park's Former Site

Bill Mazeroski Statue Located Outside PNC Park Just West of Exposition Park’s Former Site

Although Forbes Field is now just another lost ballpark, what remains at the site is well worth a stop for any baseball fan passing through Pittsburgh.

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An Expedition to Pittsburgh’s Exposition Park(s)

December 15th, 2010

Long before PNC Park, Three Rivers Stadium, and Forbes Field, Pittsburgh’s professional baseball teams played at a place known as Exposition Park.  In truth, there actually were three different incarnations of Exposition Park located along the banks of the Allegheny River.  The third, and most well documented, being the last of the three.

Exposition Park Pittsburgh, August 1904 (Geo. R. Lawrence Co., Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Exposition Park Circa 1905, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Exposition Park August 5, 1905, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

In the above photograph, North Side’s Monument Hill is visible in the background (now Community College of Allegheny County).

Pittsburgh’s Exposition Park (postcard image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, postcard publisher unknown)

As is evident in the above postcard, Exposition Park once sat along the Allegheny River, across from downtown Pittsburgh, just west of the Pirates current home, PNC Park.  The picture below of the Bill Mazeroski Statute located outside the Right Field Gate, includes some of the same buildings across the Allegheny River that appear in the postcard above, most notably the Marriott Renaissance Hotel, with its distinctive upside down u-shaped breezeway, to the left in the photograph.

Bill Mazeroski Statue Located Outside PNC Park near the former Site of Exposition Park

Because the area along the Allegheny River where the ballpark once stood flooded several times, and has been dredged and widened, the exact location of Exposition Park is difficult to determine.

Former Site of Exposition Park as Seen From PNC Park

However, along the banks of the river, just east of Interstate 279 and the Fort Duquesne Bridge, a plaque constructed by the Pennsylvania State Historical and Museum Society honors Exposition Park.

Pennsylvania State Historical Plaque Honoring Exposition Park

The plaque also notes that in October 1903, the very first World Series – between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Americans – was played there.

Pennsylvania State Historical Marker Honoring Exposition Park and the First World Series

The former site of two other Pittsburgh ballparks reside in the area near Exposition Park.  Three Rivers Stadium sat just to the north and west of Exposition Park.  The picture below, taken just north of Exposition Park’s former site facing in the direction Heinz Field, shows the approximate location of Three Rivers Stadium, which is now, largely, a parking lot.

Former Site of Three Rivers Stadium (Just Beyond Interstate 279) From Vantage Point of Exposition Park

Recreation Park, where Pittsburgh played its home games from 1887 to 1890, prior to moving into Exposition Park’s third incarnation in 1891, sat just north of Exposition Park.  A Pennsylvania State historical marker placed along North Shore Drive just east of Heinz Field pays homage to Recreation Park.  The plaque notes that the ballpark resided just “a few blocks NW of here.”

Plaque Honoring Recreation Park

The Pennsylvania State historical marker likewise notes that the first professional football game was played at Recreation Park in 1892, one year after the Pirates left for Exposition Park.

Pennsylvania State Historical Marker Noting Recreation Park's Significance to the History of Professional Football

Pennsylvania State Historical Marker Noting Recreation Park’s Significance to the History of Professional Football

The Pirates current home, PNC Park, resides just a long fly ball from the former site of Exposition Park. In addition to the Pirates, who played at Exposition Park from 1891 to 1909, before moving to Forbes Field mid season, the Players League Pittsburgh Burghers played at Exposition Park in 1890 and the Federal League Pittsburgh Stogies and Pittsburgh Rebels played at Exposition Park from 1913 to 1915.

Former Site of Exposition Park With PNC Park as a Backdrop

With so many lost ballparks located near the Pirates current home, anyone who cares at all about the history of the game should be sure to take a stroll just west of PNC Park and visit the former sites not only of Exposition Park, but Recreation Park and Three Rivers Stadium as well.

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The Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers Stadium

June 25th, 2010

Three Rivers Stadium, home to the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1970 through 2000, was located in the North Shore section of Pittsburgh.

Three Rivers Stadium Aerial View (Gold Star Photography/Norman W. Schumm)

The multipurpose stadium was nestled along the Allegheny River, adjacent to where that river converges with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River, hence the stadium’s name.

Pittsburgh's Skyline Across the Allegheny River Looking South Beyond Three Rivers Stadium's Outfield Wall

It is hard to believe that the Pirates would have abandoned historic Forbes Field for the generic and sterile confines of Three Rivers, however, such was progress, 1970’s-style.

Three Rivers Stadium Playing Field

Tarp Covers Three Rivers Stadium's Infield During Rain Delay

The seating capacity and the lack of demand for tickets led Pirate officials to close off portions of the outfield upper deck seating area.

Closed Upper Deck Seating Area Included Tribute to Pittsburgh's Negro League Champions

Still, regardless of its architectural merits, Three Rivers Stadium hosted major league baseball for over 30 seasons and, with its demolition, a considerable amount of baseball history went with it.

Three Rivers Stadium Upper Deck

The site of two World Series, many great Pittsburgh players called Three Rivers Stadium their home.

The Three Rivers Third Base Side and Left Field Corner

Ultimately, progress made a dramatic U-turn and in 2001, the Pirates inaugurated PNC Park, constructed just four blocks east of Three Rivers Stadium.

Looking West From PNC Park toward Former Site of Three Rivers Stadium circa 2003

PNC Park With Heinz Field And Former Site of Three Rivers Stadium In Background

Today, the former site of Three Rivers Stadium is, like many other recently-lost ballparks, a parking lot.

Former Site of Three Rivers Stadium (Shown As A Parking Lot) Adjacent to Heinz Field Circa 2009

Construction of the North Shore Entertainment Complex currently is underway on the former site of Three Rivers Stadium.   The picture below shows the area formerly occupied by the right field corner/seating area of Three River Stadium.

Sign Announcing Construction of North Shore Entertainment Complex at Former Site of Three Rivers Stadium

Eventually, the area will house a two story,  22,000 square foot for both indoor and outdoor concerts.

Former Site of Three River Stadium Center Field

Former Site of Three River Stadium Center Field Looking Southeast

The seating area along left field/third base remains a parking lot, for the moment, at least.  The approximate location of left field sits on West Robinson Street, just east of Interstate 279.

Approximate Location of Three Rivers Stadium Left Field Corner Looking Toward Direction of Home Plate

Approximate Location of Three Rivers Stadium Left Field Corner Looking Toward Home Plate

A two-story, concrete marker for Gate D is the only portion of Three Rivers Stadium still standing.   It is located adjacent to Heinz Field and the statute of Steelers’ founder Arthur Rooney.

Gate D Marker from Three Rivers Stadium

In 2006, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission erected a plaque next to the Gate D marker commemorating Three Rivers Stadium.

Three Rivers Stadium Historical Plaque With Heinz Field in Background

The plaque states:

Three Rivers Stadium

Opened on July 16, 1970.  Home to the Pirates, who won two World Series, and the Steelers, who won four Super Bowl Championships, creating “Pittsburgh’s City of Champions” identity.  It was the site of Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit, September 30, 1972 and Franco Harris’s legendary “Immaculate Reception,” December 23, 1972.  A multi-use facility, it also hosted many concerts and special events prior to its demolition on February 11, 2001.

Three Rivers Stadium Pennsylvania State Historical Marker

A stop at Gate D to visit the site of yet another lost ballpark is certainly worth the trip next time you find yourself four blocks east at PNC park in Pittsburgh.

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Honus Wagner House

April 28th, 2010

Most people in the United States know John Peter “Honus” Wagner as the player whose name and image appeared on the legendary T-206 tobacco card, the most valuable baseball card ever printed.  Historians of the game also consider Wagner to be perhaps the best shortstop of all time.

John Peter "Honus" Wagner (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, in 1874, Wagner lived almost his entire life in that town.  His former house at 605 Beechwood Avenue in Carnegie still stands as a private residence, looking much like it did when Wagner lived there.

Honus Wagner's House in Carnegie PA

The house was built for Wagner in 1917, his last year as a player, and he lived there until his death in 1955. The house is a two-and-a-half story, tan-brick foursquare, with a central dormer and a front porch with matching tan-brick columns.

Entrance to Second Floor

Four grey-painted concrete steps lead from the sidewalk to a clay-tiled front porch.

More Steps to the Past

An ornate wood front door with leaded glass panels on either side of the door and in the transom above.

Ornate Front Door

To the left of the entrance is the house number “605″ set inside a shield carved in granite, and to the right, a similar granite shield with the initials “JW” framing the doorbell.

605 Beechwood Avenue

You Too Can Ring Wagner's Bell

Just a ten mile drive from old Forbes Field and seven miles from PNC Park, the current home of the Pirates, Wagner’s house on Beechwood Avenue is a well-preseved time capsule and well worth the stop.

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Forbes Field and the University of Pittsburgh

April 8th, 2010

Forbes Field Wall and the Cathedral of Learning

Baseball fans owe a debt of gratitude to the University of Pittsburgh for having the foresight to keep portions of Forbes Field in place for future generations of fans to appreciate. The university purchased Forbes Field in the 1960’s with the understanding it would tear down the ballpark and develop the land once the Pirates relocated to a new stadium.

The Backside of the Wall

A line of bricks embedded in the sidewalk in front of Wesley Posvar Hall marks the left field portion of the outfield wall – an area once known as “Greenberg Gardens” and, after that, “Kiner’s Korner,” in honor of two of the team’s more prolific sluggers.

Plaque Embedded in Street Marking Outfield Wall

A bronze plaque in the sidewalk marks the exact spot where Bill Mazeroski’s ninth-inning home run cleared both former Yankee catcher-turned-outfielder Yogi Berra and the left field wall, clinching the 1960 World Series for the Pirates.

Game Over!

The line of bricks continue across a narrow street – appropriately named Roberto Clemente Drive – to where the actual remnants of the outfield wall began.

Bricks Embedded in Sidewalk Mark Outfield Wall

About 15 feet tall, and perhaps 180 feet long, the wall is constructed of red brick and divided by concrete columns spaced 12 feet apart. The columns are painted green and the wall is capped with blocks of weathered grey granite. The original center field flag pole and two distance markers, still painted in white on the side of the wall — 457 to left center, 436 to right center, remain as well.

457 to Left Center With Shadow of CF Flagpole

The wall ends at what once was the right-field pavilion.

Right Field Grandstand Started Here

For more pictures and information from Deadball Baseball about Forbes Field, CLICK: Forbes Field – Game Over .

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