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Forbes Field remnants restored

By Tony LaRussa
Saturday, May 6, 2006

Pirates fans and historic preservationists with a fondness for Forbes Field are making sure what remains of the old ballpark will look its best when thousands of people stream into the city for the Major League All-Star Game in July.

Work has begun to restore the remnants of the red-brick wall along Roberto Clemente Drive in Oakland in preparation for a ceremony to unveil a marker from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The marker ceremony is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. July 7, including live music, “ballpark” style refreshments and a “throwback” youth baseball game at nearby Mazeroski Field featuring players wearing historic jerseys from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Crawfords, and the Homestead Grays.

The All-Star game will be played July 11 at PNC Park on the North Side.

“We’re hoping that the celebration on July 7 will help focus attention — and draw community and financial support — for showcasing the wall, which is an important part of Pittsburgh’s history,” said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park. Ferlo has been spearheading efforts to turn the area around the wall into a “walk of fame” with plaques, benches, decorative historic lighting and possibly an interactive kiosk to inform and entertain visitors.

The city of Pittsburgh, which has owned the wall since 1971, awarded a $25,615 contract to Franco Construction to repoint the brick, replace missing terra cotta caps, resurface the concrete pilasters that divide sections of the wall and refurbish and paint the flag pole.

Organizers also are considering installing a clay gravel warning track at the base of the wall to prevent mud from splashing up on the brick and make it easier for visitors to get closer to the wall.

Most of the restoration cost is covered by a state Department of Community and Economic Development grant Ferlo helped obtain on behalf of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Last June, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission placed a marker near the wall dedicated to Barney Dreyfuss, the Pirates owner who built Forbes Field in 1909. Dreyfuss also is credited with “inventing” the World Series in 1903, when the Boston Pilgrims, champions of the newly formed American League, accepted a challenge to meet his National League champion Pirates in a postseason tournament.

The Pirates lost.

A marker also is imbedded in the spot where Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski’s bottom of the ninth home run sailed over the wall at 3:36 p.m. Oct. 13, 1960, to defeat the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.

Since 1985, members of the Society for American Baseball Research have gathered each Oct. 13 to celebrate Mazeroski’s legendary home run.

The home plate from the last game played at Forbes Field June 28, 1970, is preserved under Lucite in nearby Posvar Hall on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

Tony LaRussa can be reached at .

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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