West Field is located at the northwest intersection of West Street and Orchard Street, directly behind the Munhall Borough Police Station (1900 West Street), in Munhall, PA. The Borough of Munhall is located seven miles southeast of Pittsburgh, just south of Homestead, Pennsylvania.
West Field was constructed in 1937 with funds from the Public Works Administration. Although it has functioned mainly as a town ball field for the Steel City School District’s baseball, softball, and football teams, West Field is notable because of its connection to Negro League baseball.
Beginning in the late 1930s up until at least 1948, West Field was used by the Homestead Grays for exhibition games, practices, spring training, and Negro National League contests when the Gray’s home ballpark Forbes Field was unavailable. During the early 1900s, the Grays played at another ball field in Munhall (known as the 19th Avenue Playground) located near the intersection of McClure Street and 19th Avenue. Some early 1900s newspaper accounts also refer to the Grays playing at another field in Munhall, also known as West Field, which was located in the Homestead Park section of Munhall near what is now Leigh Street (thanks Bob for the information).
What is extraordinary about West Field is that, although it is deteriorating, the ballpark grandstand, seating bowl, and playing field remain relatively the same as they did when such stars as Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson played there.
Thus, West Field is one of the last few surviving Negro League ballparks.
According to Trib Total Media, beginning in April 2015, the ballpark is scheduled to undergo a five million dollar renovation, courtesy of a generous grant from the Campbell Educational and Community Foundation. Upgrades include new seating and a turf field that will accommodate football, baseball, and softball.
It is uncertain just how much of West Field’s historic grandstand and seating bowl will be preserved as part of the renovation, although Trib Reporter Mike Divittorio has stated that the Borough will renovate the lockers in the grandstand and add new seating on top of the existing benches. Given West Field’s important history, and its status as one of the last surviving Negro League ballparks, care should be taken to preserve the structure for future generations to appreciate.
According to a 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview of Elijah “Lucky” Miller, a former Homestead Grays bat boy, the Grays used the dugout located along the third base side of the grandstand.
Next to the third base dugout are the entrances to the players locker rooms.
The locker rooms were located at the end of a tunnel that ran underneath the grandstand.
Like the Gray’s home dugout, the visiting team dugout – once used by such teams as the New York Black Yankees – remains at the site, frozen in time.
The view from the dugout is largely unchanged from the days when the ballpark hosted Negro League baseball.
Out beyond left and center field is the Munhall Municipal Building, which was constructed between 1941 and 1945 (completion was delayed because necessary building materials were in short supply during World War II). The building currently houses the Munhall Borough Police Department.
The view from right field looking toward the infield and the grandstand is like looking back in time.
Having hosted countless sporting events for almost 80 years, the stadium is in desperate need of repair. The concrete that supports the first base grandstand seating is crumbling and presumably much of it would need to be removed and replaced. Renovation plans call for installing seating for 800 in the ballpark, a significant decrease for a stadium which currently holds 3,000.
At the top of the first base grandstand is a walk way that leads around to the top of the third base grandstand. If you are planning to visit the ballpark prior to its renovation, this walkway provides an excellent panoramic view of West Field.
West Field is located on property also used by the Borough of Munhall for storage and repair of its service vehicles. The grandstand, and the entrance to it behind home plate, is accessible only by walking through a storage yard.
Hopefully the grandstand will be saved and restored. Although it currently is covered with graffiti and the grounds around it are littered with debris, the 1930s era structure itself appears to be in good shape and worthy of being preserved.
In 1987, the Borough of Munhall rededicated West Field as William W. Knight Memorial Park, in honor of the former major of Munhall.
The Borough of Munhall has a unique opportunity to celebrate and preserve an important part of our country’s history. Updates will be posted here once more is known about the proposed renovations, and as they progress.
In the meantime, here is a video walk around of the ballpark in it’s current condition.