Forbes Field (1909-1971)

Seventy years ago every young boy growing up in western Pennsylvania became a Pittsburgh Pirate baseball fan and as he grew older would beg his parents to take him to Forbes Field to see the Pirates play. As far back as I can remember I listened to radio announcer, Rosie Roswell, give a play by play account of the Pirate’s games. When they were not playing in Forbes Field, Rosie would read each pitch from the teletype machine and make the radio broadcast sound like he was at the ball park. When a Pirate batter hit a home run, Rosie would shout into his microphone, “Open the window Aunt Minnie, here it comes.” And then there would be the sound of breaking glass. How exciting! It was like being at Forbes Field and watching the game.

While attending the University of Pittsburgh back in the late 1940s I had several occasions to see a baseball game at Forbes Field located in the Oakland District and across the street from the Cathedral of Learning. It was a sad day in 1971 when the announcement came that Forbes Field would be torn down and the ballpark moved closer to downtown. How could they destroy a part of baseball’s history? It was at Forbes Field that Babe Ruth hit his last 3 home runs. It was there that the great Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, and Roberto Clemente ran the bases. The announcement was enough to make a grown man cry.

Last October my 44-year-old son, who has been collecting baseball cards since first grade, said to me, “Dad, lets go to Forbes Field and take in the last game of the 1960 World Series.” “Won’t we be 45 years too late for the game,” I asked? He explained that every year at 1:00 PM on October 13th several hundred Pirate fans congregate in what little remains of Forbes Field and listen to the original radio broadcast of the whole seventh game of the 1960 Series between the Pirates and the Yankees. During the seventh inning stretch, they sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” They cheer loudly when the Pirates go ahead in the 8th inning by the score of 9 to 7. There are groans as the Yankees come back to tie the game up in the top of the 9th. Excitement builds as the Pirate second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, come to the plate. The first pitch is a ball. The crowd listens intently. “Here comes the pitch! It’s a hit! Yogi Bera is running to the left field wall! It’s over his head! It’s a home run and the Pirates win the World Series by a score of 10 to 9.” The crowd cheers, slaps each other on the back, and shouts, “Well, we did it again.”

All this cheering may sound a little silly if you are not a true Pirate baseball fan, but for the last 25 years people have come from as far away as Richmond, Virginia, to be at Forbes Field on the anniversary of the last game of the 1960 World Series. Old Pirate players will show up occasionally to reminisce and sign autographs. This past October Pirate pitcher Bob Friend spoke to the crowd as did baseball announcer Nellie King.
During the game I walked across Roberto Clemente Drive and up a few steps into Pitt’s Posvar Hall. There on the building’s first floor, encased in glass is home plate in its original location. Today only a small portion of the original ivy-covered left field wall remains of what was once the most beautiful ball park in the world; my beloved Forbes Field.