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Honoring A Pirates World Series Win And Forbes Field

On this date 55 years ago at Forbes Field in Oakland,  Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit his legendary homerun at the bottom of the ninth inning, clinching the World Series title for the Pirates over the New York Yankees.

In commemoration of the event, the University of Pittsburgh has set up a permanent photo exhibit in Posvar Hall celebrating the history of Forbes Field. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer traveled to Pitt’s campus to meet with history professor and sports historian Rob Ruck.  The two toured the permanent photography exhibit and discussed the field’s impact on Pittsburgh sports history.

The field was constructed in 1909, funded by then Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss. Before Forbes’ construction, the Pirates played in Exposition Field, which had a host of problems, according to Ruck.

“They were playing in Exposition Park in the North Side, which didn’t seat that many, flooded every spring, and had fire prone rickety wooden grandstands,” Ruck said.

Besides being used by the Pirates, Forbes Field also played home to several other sports teams, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues. Famed Negro League player Josh Gibson played on the field several times. Described as the Babe Ruth of baseball, Gibson never saw a losing season in his entire career.

“Pittsburgh really was the crossroads of black baseball and the baseball world included not just the United States but much of the Caribbean basin,” Ruck said.

More than just baseball games occurred on Forbes Field. During the early years of their existence, the Pittsburgh Steelers played many games at the stadium. The Posvar Hall exhibit includes several photos of the Steelers, including the team’s first ever victory over their rival the Cleveland Browns.

The exhibit also features a physical piece of Forbes Field History. Embedded in the floor of Posvar Hall is the same home plate the Pirates slid across at the field. Flanking the plate is a photo showing the moment of Mazeroski’s game winning home run, taken from the Cathedral of Learning.

While it may no longer be in the city, Ruck says that Forbes Field stands as a foundation of Pittsburgh’s future sports victories.

“That City of Champions was built on what took place here at Forbes Field for 61years,” Ruck said. “Whether it was Billy Con or Art Rooney, they came up in Pittsburgh and stayed here and made this city known for something other than steel.”

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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