Nine days ago, I asked for help identifying the stadium and uniforms in the (awful!) movie “Roommates.” Remember? This was my blog entry about it. The scene took place in Pittsburgh in 1963, which means the stadium should have been Forbes Field — but the scene was actually filmed at a minor league stadium in Indianapolis instead. (That’s not why it was an awful movie, but it didn’t help.) Anyway, while looking at photos of Forbes Field last week, I started wondering what it would’ve been like to snag baseballs there. And then I thought…hey, why not post the photos and do a whole blog entry about it?
So here we go. (These are all photos that I found on Google images. I hope I’m not violating any copyright laws by putting them on my blog, but I’m not charging people to read this, so that makes it okay, right?) First, here’s a general view of the field:
My first two thoughts are:
1) Wow, there weren’t any seats in left or center field. That sucks.
2) Wait a minute, was it possible to get balls behind the outfield walls?
Before we get into that, let’s take a look at the view down the left field foul line:
See the red arrow? It’s pointing to the insanest (yes, that’s a word) corner spot I’ve ever seen. That would have been a good spot during batting practice to scoop up ground balls — not great because it was set back a bit too far from the foul line — and to get balls tossed by the players. Of course, back in the old days, players didn’t toss much into the crowd, but that spot would be amazing if it still existed.
Looking at the photo above, it appears that there may have been a cross-aisle at the bottom of the section farther down the line. (I’m talking about the section with the green-ish wall.) Those seats appear to be elevated a bit too high for the fans to have reached over and scooped up grounders, but if there WAS an aisle down in front, then the fans sitting in Row A would’ve had a great opportunity to run left and right and catch foul pop-ups.
In case you can’t read the distance marker on the wall in left-center, it says “406.” That’s a long way. There probably weren’t many homers hit to the right of it, but there may have been some serious longball action down the line and in straight-away left field. More on that in a bit…
Here’s a photo that shows the field from the right field corner:
The arrows are pointing to the tunnels in the second deck — prime foul ball snagging territory. But who knows if the ushers let people stand there during the game? Another unknown: was there a cross-aisle at the front of the second deck? There should have been one, or else why even have the tunnels? But without an aisle, it would’ve been impossible (at a crowded game) to run left and right. In the lower deck, it appears that there was an aisle between the light blue and dark blue seats. But what about foul balls that flew completely out of the stadium? It looks like that would’ve been possible — perhaps even a frequent occurrence. Therefore, the best snagging opportunities at Forbes Field might have been outside the ballpark.
Here’s a look at the right field wall and stands:
It was only 300 feet down the line. This means both righties and lefties could have easily hit home runs…so there was definitely a lot of action there…but what’s with that netting? I drew an arrow pointing to the top of it. It’s not clear how far the netting extended down into the stands. Was it blocking the entire section? Like…was it attached to something in front of the first row? Or did it extend down into the middle of the stands, about a dozen rows back? (What would’ve been the point of that?) That could have been a killer for baseball snaggers.
If you look at the lower RF deck in the photo below…
…you can see that there was not a cross-aisle, and in fact, the photo with the “getty images” logo on it (two photos up) confirms this. Do you see any tunnels in the right field stands? No. That means the fans had to access their seats via the staircases. Not good. But some of these photos were taken during the 1960 World Series, when the stadium would’ve obviously been more crowded than ever. I just dug up a random box score from a game at Forbes Field on April 21, 1970. Want to guess what the attendance was? Get ready for it: 3,589. Aisles stop mattering when the attendance drops that low. In fact, everything stops mattering at that point.
The arrow in the photo above is pointing to a gap between the sections. Were fans able to move back and forth? Unless there’s someone from Pittsburgh reading this who’s at least 50 years old, there’s no way to find out. And if fans were trapped in one section or the other, that wouldn’t have been good.
Check out the protective screen behind the plate:
As you can see, there was a VERY short vertical portion as well as a sweeping horizontal-ish net that curved up to the second deck. Were fans able to reach over the railing in the front row of the second deck and scoop up the foul balls that rolled to them? AARRGHH!!! More questions than answers, but this ballpark seems to have had some interesting features. Also, do you see that slanted grayish portion of the roof above the second deck? (It looks like there’s a small section of seats above that gray area.) I’m thinking that foul balls would’ve rolled off that thin strip of roof and dropped down into the crowd, and if you were a regular at Forbes Field (and had an eye for detail), you would’ve learned which row they dropped into.
Let’s have a look at the area behind the outfield wall:
You like that? It’s a replica of Forbes Field. I’m hesitant to do any historical analysis based on a piece of artwork that doesn’t even have foul lines, but still, it makes me wonder if the area behind the wall was truly THAT wide open.
Here’s an actual photo that provides a partial answer:
Lots of trees back there. And a narrow street. And a parking lot. Heaven.
If I ever build a time machine, the first place I’m going is — okay, not Pittsburgh, but it’ll be high up on my list.
(What do you think? Was this entry cool? A waste of time? Should I analyze other defunct ballparks? If so, which ones do you want to see?)