Today, I saw a poster next to Michael Rowley’s desk and I asked if any of the baseball fanatics at Plaxo knew which stadium it was of.
I mentioned that I thought that it looked like Forbes Field to me. Given what I remember of the remains of it (the right field wall and home plate), it looks like the Cathedral of Learning would have afforded exactly this sort of view.
(When I was a kid, I used to point at the Cathedral of Learning, “the tallest schoolhouse in the West” and say “my mommy works there” (she actually worked nearby). My mom said that when I was younger I thought it was the Washington Monument: “Whenever we passed it, your eyes would get wide and you’d say reverently, ‘Washington!’”)
It turns out that stopping following baseball after the 1994 strike and being a die-hard Pirates fan had its advantages—it is a view of Forbes Field from the Cathedral of Learning.
A unique moment in baseball
There are more recognized images of that day:
The bottom left photo is probably the most recognizeable. I’ve seen that top photo in the montage once as an illustration where they labeled the Yankees on the field. When you see names like Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, you start to wonder how the Pirates could have won that game.
Indeed I had a friend in high school who was a big Yankees fan and he often would mention how the Yankee’s beat the Pirates in every statistic except the one that mattered: games won.
This reminds me why I used to love baseball so much as a kid.
Remembering Forbes Field
Look at that photo again and you can see Carnegie Library and Museum of Natural History behind the scoreboard. It’s in the soot-coveered black that I remember it. In the 90’s they sandblasted the building and I was surprised to find that the building was composed of white sandstone!
In fact all of Schenley Park is on the other side of that fence and the most beautiful parts of Carnegie Mellon University. Look at George Silk’s “aerial shot” and you can see the beauty and character of a classic baseball field.
The first home run in Forbes Field was Babe Ruth’s last one. Now all that is left is the home plate and part of the right field wall. All the rest was destroyed and replaced with Three Rivers Stadium before I could have a memory.
An iconic image
The Smithsonian has a wonderful write-up on how Silk took this photograph. There are some other Silk photographs mentioned in the article.
The Pirates, however, no longer play at Three Rivers but in yet another new stadium, PNC Park. Like other ballparks built in recent years, it was designed to evoke the feel of places like Forbes Field. The smaller parks bring spectators close to the action. They create an intimacy seldom felt in the stadiums they replaced. They try to re-create a time that George Silk captured one October day 42 years ago.
I no longer live in Pittsburgh; I no longer follow baseball. But this does remind me how a photographer can now capture that same feeling that George Silk captured so long ago.
I leave you with such a shot from PNC park that I favorited from Flickr: