Batter up!

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


This week, our tour of Negro League stadiums brings us to Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 


Named for the street on which it sat, Forbes Avenue, the circa 1909 stadium was the first concrete and steel constructed ballpark in the United States.

The ballyard was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the first home of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and the Negro League Homestead Grays. 

The Grays were borne out of an earlier Industrial league team in 1900 called the Germantown Blue Ribbons. 


The Blue Ribbons fielded a successful team every season between 1900 and 1910, playing some of the best sandlot teams in the area. 


Following the retirement of key team managers in 1910, the team reorganized as the Murdock Grays. In 1912 they became the Homestead Grays, a name they retained through the life of the franchise.

The Grays played all their home games at Forbes from 1922 through the 1939 season. 


In 1930, the Grays and the Kansas City Monarchs played the first baseball game at night in Pittsburgh on July 18.


Floodlights were installed the day prior to the game after being transported from Cleveland where the Monarchs and Grays had played the day prior. 

A crowd of over 15,000 fans were on hand for the historic occasion. The Grays dominated the Negro National Leagues beginning in the 1937 season winning the Negro League Championship for nine consecutive seasons thereafter.


Following the collapse of the Negro National League after the 1948 season, the Grays struggled to continue as an independent club and ultimately disbanded in May 1951.


Forbes Field was purchased by the University of Pittsburgh in November 1958. 


In the late 1960s, plans were launched for the new, multi-million dollar Three Rivers Stadium. 


The Pittsburgh Pirates played their last game at Forbes on June 28, 1970, and the stadium was razed in 1971, but parts of the field survived. 


The old outfield brick wall is now a part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, surrounded by dormitories and the library. 


The old home plate is on display in Posvar Hall which was built where the Forbes outfield once was.


In more than 4,000 games played at Forbes by both black and white baseball teams, the ballyard has the unique distinction of being the only park in baseball in which no pitcher ever threw a no-hitter within its walls. 

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