the hometown sports fan.
OF BASEBALL IN PITTSBURGH
The game of baseball
has grown from its humble
beginnings into a multi-billion dollar industry in America. This game,
millions of fans, has a long history dating back over 225 years. It has
up in just about every major city in the country. In 2004 nearly 73
tickets were sold in Major League parks alone.
This brings to mind
many questions. How did baseball
accomplish the feat of capturing the heart of a nation? Exactly when
game begin? When did it become a profession for the players? When
did it first come to Pittsburgh? In the
early days, where did the games take place?
These are the questions
that this report will
answer. Today the game has evolved into a sport that is played in
facilities that are shrines to Baseball’s rich past. The local
the place where the games are held, becomes the major focus. In
professional baseball has been played in numerous parks and stadiums.
facilities hold the story of the history of professional baseball in
Baseball: The Early Years
pastime - played with a bat, a ball, and bases. The game most likely
form a British game named rounders. Rounders was a game played in Great
well before America was settled. It is a similar game to Baseball in
are bases, a ball and a bat.
roots in America
can be traced as far back as the colonial days. On April 17, 1778,
Ewing, a soldier in the Colonial army, made an entry into his journal
and his fellow patriots had played a game of “Base” while
encamped at Valley
Forge. Someone else reported that General George Washington had played
similar game with his troops on that day.
another example of
Baseball being played in the 18th century is a 1791 law written in
the small town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The Bylaw was written
protect the windows of a new town meetinghouse. It prohibited
playing the game of baseball within 80 yards of the building. In the
other games were banned as well:
wicket, cricket, batball, football, and cats-and-fives.
its early days baseball in
America was a game that children played to occupy themselves;
ultimately become involved with the sport. Out of its humble beginnings
would become one of the most popular games ever.
before there were parks
and stadiums, the games were played on sandlots and grass fields.
early days there were no formal rules. Most games were played between
teams. The rules were similar to pickup baseball games of today. Each
its own unique set of rules that fit the number of players
involved. Often times the field on which the game
played had a major influence on those rules.
of the oldest references
to organized baseball dates back to an 1825 article that appeared in
(New York) Gazette. The item issues a challenge to a game of baseball
group in Delaware County.
the early 1800s the game
was referred to as "Baseball", "Base", or "Townball'.
The name of Townball came from the fact that the games were played
teams from neighboring small towns. In those days there were no formal
the game; teams would agree on a set of rules before each game.
of these games were played using rules similar to pick-up games, it was
of these “Townball”
games created tremendous rivalries. Their intensity was so great that
times they ended up in fights and arguments. Often times the game would
entire towns betting each other on the outcome of the game.
recognized as the "official" creator of baseball by a national panel
in the early 1900s, but historians have since agreed that it
was in 1845,
that Alexander Cartwright, a bank clerk, was the first
to formalize a list
of rules by which all teams could play.
In June of 1846 the New York Knickerbockers, led
by Cartwright, played the first official baseball game
teams, using the new formal rules, in Hoboken, New Jersey.
increased in the next decade. In 1857 a convention was held to discuss
rules of the game and other topics. There were twenty-five teams from
northeast who attended. In 1858 the National Association of Baseball
instituted the first organized baseball league. The game of
now off and running.
the early 1860's America was involved in the Civil War and fewer
were played during that time. However, Union troops expanded the game's
popularity by playing games in parts of the country where it had never
amateurs played the games. For the most part, they were playing for
town's bragging rights. At the time, most of the players involved with
sport were young professionals who would take a break from their jobs
bankers or accountants to participate in a “Townball” game.
came about in 1869 when the Cincinnati Red Stockings were formed by
George Wright. The brothers decided to recruit the best players from
the country and pay them. In 1869 the Red Stockings had a record of
concept of towns having a
professional team caught on. But, it wasn't until 1876 that Pittsburgh
witnessed the first professional game in town. The local team was
named the Pittsburgh Alleghenies and that first game happened
Union Park. The Alleghenies played in the minor-league International
But in 1877 the International League folded.
Baseball did not
return to Pittsburgh until 1882 when the Alleghenies reformed and
American Association. The local team played their home games at
in 1882 and ‘83. But, because of flooding problems at Exposition
Park, the team
moved to Recreation Park in 1884; over the next five seasons,
was the Alleghenies’ home.
Alleghenies played in the
American Association over the next four years before joining the
League in 1887. In their first National League game the
the defending champions Chicago White Stockings 6-2 in front of
fans at Recreation Park.
“Pirates” a Player
In 1889 the
were renamed the Pittsburgh
Innocents and continued to play in the National League. The following
team was named the Pirates after they had "pirated" second baseman
Lou Bierbauer from Philadelphia of the American Association.
the early days of
organized professional baseball, teams owned the rights of their
Owners had organized and instituted the reserve clause. The clause gave
owners the rights to their players under contract. Those rights would
that the player could not play for any other team.
idea of a player being a free agent was out of the
question. This angered many players,
so in 1890 they organized their own league.
The newly formed league was called the Players League.
1890 Louis Bierbauer left the Philadelphia
Athletics to join a team in the newly formed Players League.
folded and Bierbauer was bound to return to Philadelphia. In 1891 a
error allowed the Innocents to swipe him from the Athletics. From that
on, the Pittsburgh club became known as the Pirates. Bierbauer
effect, the first free agent in all of professional sport.
In 1891 the
Pittsburgh Pirates returned to
Exposition Park where the
home team would remain until the 1909 season when they moved into
Woodcut of Children
Playing Bat & Ball.
(Source: Children's Amusements [New York, 1820])
The Baseball Parks of
from the major professional Baseball facilities that housed the
team that eventually became the Pittsburgh Pirates there were several
facilities that were called home to the Pittsburgh Alleghenies and
Pittsburgh Crawfords. The
Homestead Grays played
all of their home games at Forbes Field.
The very first
professional game held in Pittsburgh happened in 1876. The Pittsburgh
Alleghenies of the minor league International League played the first
professional game in town; the place where it happened was known
Park. There is very little information about where Union Park was
what the park was like. It may have had a grandstand (unique to
that era) as it did have a listed capacity of 2,500 fans.
Cathedrals, a book that lists all professional parks, also indicates
Providence Grays played at Union Park on August 22-24 in 1878.
Pittsburgh in the late 1800s
the Alleghenies resumed play again, they played in Exposition
Exposition Park actually was not built to house baseball. In 1875 the
Exposition was held. The Expo was held in a hall that showed off local
and provided entertainment. On the same location there were several
fields. There was a field on the lower area near the river and an upper
On these fields, circuses, horse races and musical events occurred. It
the lower field that the Alleghenies played in 1882. That field was
the lower field was
prone to frequent floods in the summertime, the Alleghenies decided to
the upper field in 1883; that was Exposition Park II. It is not
either of these places ever had a grandstand.
1884 through 1889 the
Alleghenies played in Recreation Park. In 1890 the re-named Pittsburgh
Innocents played the final season at the same facility. Like Union
much information is available on Recreation Park. It was built in order
avoid the flood problems of Exposition Park. It was located on
North Side where the Mexican War Streets are today. The facility held
fans. According to a local historian, the smallest crowd happened on
1890 when the Innocents hosted Cleveland before a paid crowd of 6, with
other fans in attendance.
‘83 the expo hall burned
down and subsequently was rebuilt across the river at the
Point State Park stands today. With only the fields remaining, the
League built Exposition Park III in 1890. This park held a
capacity of 16,000
fans, and was the home of the Pirates until June 29, 1909.
Park was a state
of the art facility in its day. It had two grandstands along both the
first-base and third-base lines. There were also two sets of bleachers
extended from the grandstands toward each foul pole in left and right
field. A unique feature were the twin
spires that rose up behind home plate. The spires could be seen from
across the river.
In 1903, 3 games
of the First World Series ever was played in
Left Field: 400
Center Field: 450
Field: 400 feet
1902 the National League
and the American League came to an agreement where each league would
same game rules and allow for inter-league trading.
First ever World Series
the conclusion of the 1903
season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were the champions of the National
In the American League it was the Boston Pilgrims (or
“Americans” as they were
also known). The Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss and Henry Killilea of the
Pilgrims/Americans agreed to play each other to determine the World
Championship of Baseball. Historians agree that this was the first
for the Pilgrims/Americans, 4 of which were pitchers; Cy Young was one
of them. The Bucs had 14 players
participate; 5 were pitchers. Notable Pirates
on the ‘03 team were Fred Clarke, Deacon
and Honus Wagner.
the 9-game series, the
Pirates seemed to be in command after winning 3 of the first 4 games.
Pilgrims/Americans went on to win the next 4 games, ultimately taking
series 5 games to 3.
Boston players received
$1,182.00 while Dreyfuss paid the hometown team $1,316.00 because he
gave his share
of the gate to his players.
the nation’s birthday in
1902, Exposition Park was flooded with more than a foot of water; that
stop the teams from playing the scheduled double header against
Pirates won both games on that day. Prior to the contests, both teams
that all outfield hits into the water were singles.
Exposition Park III
- 1905: Honus Wagner
becomes the first ever to have a signature bat. It was branded into a
- 1906: The Pirates are the
first team to use a tarp to cover a wet field.
from the major homes of
local baseball, where the Alleghenies, Innocents, and Pirates played,
only two other Parks listed where professional baseball games were held
town. They were Almond Field and Greenlee Field.
above the 1935
Pittsburgh Crawfords are seen here in front of their Bus outside
Field was located in
Pittsburgh's Hill District. The facility was the home of the great
Pittsburgh area teams. Today there is a plaque that commemorates Almond
The address where the Plaque currently stands is 2217 Bedford
‘30s, players in the Negro League were not permitted to use
rooms at either Forbes Field or Almond Field.The
players of the Negro
League finally found a new home at Greenlee Field. The Field was
located in the
Hill District at 2500 Bedford Ave. Gus Greenlee was sort of a
who was involved in the rackets, but he viewed himself as a
force in the community." In 1932 Greenlee had the park built. Greenlee
Field was said to have a roofless grandstand that held a capacity of
fans. It was a structure constructed of steel and concrete with a high
wall. The dressing rooms were state-of-the-art facilities; the
finally were accorded the dignity of using the dressing rooms before
the games. In 1933, lights were installed over the field. Greenlee was
the home of the first night baseball game ever played. The Pittsburgh
declared it to be a "Mecca of the Hill District."
the later part of the 30's
the Crawfords declined and, sadly, the field was demolished in
Park was the home
of the Pittsburgh Pirates until 1909 when Forbes Field became the new
the Bucs. The final professional
game was played in 1915 when the local Pittsburgh affiliate of
League, the Pittsburgh Stogies, hosted the final Baseball game at