Obscure Sports Stops: Forbes Field Remnants
Forbes Field Plaque, Photo by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
Places of historical significance are often lost to progress. In Pittsburgh, however, baseball fans can still visit the location of one of the sport’s great moments: Bill Mazeroski’s World Series-ending home run in 1960. “Maz,” a Hall of Fame second baseman, crushed the Yankees’ Ralph Terry’s second pitch in the ninth inning of Game 7 over Forbes Field’s left-center field wall to win the game, 10-9, and the World Series, 4 games to 3. It remains the only series-clinching, walkoff home run in MLB history.
The land where Forbes Field once sat is now part of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus. “Pitt,” as the university is known, has maintained parts of the ballpark that fans can easily visit. Pitt purchased Forbes Field in 1958 and leased it back to the Pirates until a replacement could be built. That occurred in 1970, when the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium, approximately five miles away. Pitt then razed most of Forbes Field after fires to the structure in December 1970 and July 1971.
Pitt has kept portions of Forbes Field’s original outfield wall. The left-center and center field sections remain, with their respective distances from home plate (457 feet and 436 feet) indicated near the bottom of the wall. This is not the wall over which Mazeroski’s home run sailed, however. The Pirates claimed that part of the wall and relocated it to their current home, PNC Park, built to replace Three Rivers. But bricks designate the location of the wall that Mazeroski’s home run cleared.
Portions of Forbes Field Wall, University of Pittsburgh, Photo by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
Another piece of Forbes Field sits a few steps away from the wall, across Roberto Clemente Drive: home plate. After Pitt demolished the stadium, it opened Posvar Hall in 1978, where parts of the Forbes Field infield sat. The home plate used in Forbes Field’s final game is near – although not in – its original location, preserved under Plexiglas. Fans can find home plate in Posvar Hall’s first-floor lobby. Home plate’s actual location would have prevented many fans from seeing it, however. “Had architects placed home plate in its precise spot about half of the Pirates fans could not view it. The reason: it would have to be on display in the fifth stall of the ladies’ restroom,” wrote author John McCollister in 2008.
Forbes Field Home Plate, Posvar Hall, University of Pittsburgh, Photo by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
Mazeroski was certainly not the only great to play at Forbes Field. The Negro League’s Homestead Grays called Forbes Field home from 1922 to 1939. Six members of the Grays’ 1936 team have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This group includes Josh Gibson, whom many consider the greatest ever to play baseball. In 1909, Forbes Field’s debut season, Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers) and Honus Wagner (Pirates) met in the World Series for the only time. Legions of Pirates’ greats likewise played their home games at Forbes Field, including Al Oliver, Willie Stargell, and Roberto Clemente, who played 15 seasons there.
The Pitt campus in the Oakland neighborhood is an easy detour for fans attending a present-day Pirates’ game at PNC Park. The locations only sit about a 15-minute drive apart. When visiting the Forbes Field remnants, bear in mind that they exist on a college campus. Parking can be scarce and students may be in classes. But a visit is worth the slight effort and a great way to remember Pittsburgh’s rich baseball history.