Forbes Field snagging analysis

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:
forbes_field1.jpg
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:
forbes_field2.jpg
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:
forbes_field3.jpg
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:
forbes_field4.jpg
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…
forbes_field5.jpg
…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:
forbes_field6.jpg
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:
forbes_field7.jpg
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:
forbes_field8.jpg
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?)

30 Comments

Wow great entry…And after thinking about it, I think Crosley Field would be a good one to do!

hey its nathan AGAIN lol, but i thought it was kinda cool but that cornerspot was pretty awesome….Check out my page at soxfan3224.mlblogs.com, this is for anyone to read mine, i need some people keeping up on it too lol

very cool, zack. great to see some pictures of this place about which I know nothing. that last picture is pretty famous. anyone know what those people are standing on? the top of a skyscraper?
-Todd
http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com

Hey, LEIGH (Padreleigh, that is). You reading this? I figured while I’m here I should seek your advice. I’m planning a trip to Petco Park for June (Go Mariners!). I’m intrigued by the beach. I think Tim would love to play in the sand while at the ballpark. What’s the story with the beach? Bleacher tickets get you in? If you’re in there, can you still explore the rest of the field? Can you actually hang out in the sand during the game? Can you see okay from there? Is it crowded? Anything else I should know? Thanks!
-Todd

DEFINITELY, without-a-doubt do more of these past ballpark snagging reports. It’s a fun read, especially in the middle of winter. And I agree with redsfan101, Crosley Field would be interesting.
Aaron

Excellent analysis of snagging foul balls and home run balls at Forbes Field. Please do more of studies of classic ballparks like Shibe Park; Crosley Field and the Polo Grounds. Your study reminds me of the great times I used to have during Spring Training where I had access behind the fence and got many Home Run balls while watching the games for free at Port Charlotte 10 years ago.

Zack,
It will take me some time to write (both in English and Chinese) and organize it. I took lots of pics. I will send my blog entry to your email. (I always like the element of surprise)

Great analysis, btw.

REDSFAN101-
Thanks. Crosley Field, huh? I could probably do that. Not sure if it’ll be my next entry, or if I’ll do it in a month, but it’ll probably happen soon.

REDSOXKID15-
Congrats on getting your blog up and running. Looks good so far.

TODD-
I think it was at a nearby university.

AARON-
Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

PARIS4242-
Cool. The Polo Grounds would be especially fun for me because I’m a native New Yorker.

SAMMYWU17-
Okay, take your time…

I’d like to see an analysis of 19th century ballparks.

Would there be such a thing as a “glove trick” in a pre-glove baseball environment? How could snaggers display their ever-shifting loyalties in a world without team merchandise? And how would one outwit not just team officials but also the local constabulary?

http://bensbiz.mlblogs.com/

Zack, don’t wanna say TOO much, but I think you have mistaken me and ‘redsoxkid15′

No problem
-Redsfan101

how would it be to snag at polo grounds or ebbets field? this was a very cool off-season entry. More would be cool.

First of all, very nice model in the second to last picture. Very nice entry on the whole. I know you’ve been there but how about Olympic Stadium in Montreal? And also Ebbets Field.

BENJAMIN HILL-
Excellent questions. After I write a few more posts on some of the better known defunct parks, I’ll do a REALLY old one.

REDSFAN101-
I’m confused. It happens. Sorry.

KRIMSTEINMILO-
I’ve often wondered that myself, and so you’ve convinced me: the old NYC ballparks need to be analyzed!

15222XC-
I’m mainly interested in piecing together clues from ballparks that I’ve never visited, so I’m inclined to hold off on doing anything on Olympic Stadium, at least for now, but maybe at some point down the road? Ebbets Field is a must. That will happen.

Hey Zack,
I think this article is great keep doing these. Also would you be open to for a price, tell your secrets about my home ballpark or other ballparks.
Thanks

Hit up Memorial Stadium.

Very cool Zack! It’s a genius off-season thing to do…

~Dennis

I was in Pittsburgh last year and visited UPitt’s campus. Some of Forbes Field’s outfield wall was preserved and still stands today……and across the street from the wall, inside one of the buildings on campus, home plate has been preserved. It’s under glass on the main floor of the building……..and i believe (if I recall correctly…I’ll have to check my pictures) that the picture of people watching the game from the skyscraper hangs on a wall close to home plate. And i’m also pretty sure that the building they’re on in that picture is the Cathedral of Learning which I also visited.

Zack -

I love anything about baseball staduims. I only wish that I was old enough that I could have visited them. You took a completely different view of the stadium that was very interesting. (probably not worth much now since the stadium is gone) You have a great eye for detail and investigation like the netting in RF or the cross aisle down LF line. Have you ever considered writing a novel about a detective? Maybe you could incorporate something about snagging an important baseball in MLB history that mysteriously disappears. :)

IMO you should do a different defunct stadium once a month during the off-season. Add the LA Coliseum or Mile High Stadium to your list.

Zack — Here’s a totally non-Forbes Field related question for you. If you vacationed in Japan and went to a game between the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Hanshin Tigers and you snagged a bunch of baseballs, would you count them in your collection? What if one of the balls was a clean catch of a walk-off grand slam hit by former-Mariner Kenji Johjima (or any former MLB player)?
-Todd
http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com

PS – this question was prompted by watching videos of Ichiro playing for the Orix Blue Wave posted on “Hail Ichiro!” (http://nao.mlblogs.com)

what do the baseballs that japan teams use look like?
Soxfan3224.mlblogs.com

LAWSLUGGER-
You don’t need to pay me for my ball-snagging tips. The only reason why I’d be hesitant to share them is that it might take a lot of time…and that’s something that (unfortunately) I don’t have much of these days. What ballpark(s) are you talking about? I haven’t already blogged about them?

SECTION86-
Ooh…nice idea. I want to do some newer old ballparks, if that makes sense, so yes, at some point, I’ll probably do Memorial Stadium.

DENNIS-
Thanks. Glad you like it.

DINOS-
Thanks for the insights. Now that you mention that, I think I saw a photo of the old home plate in that glassy thing while searching for photos on Google.

TRIPLETROX-
Wow, thank you! I’ve never written fiction. I think it’d be cool to write a novel someday, but I’d really have to do a lot of studying before I’d be able to. Cool idea, though.

TODD-
I would not count those balls, but when (not if) I go to Japan to watch an actual regular season MLB game (like, if two teams decide to play there to open the season), then I *will* count those balls.

REDSOXKID15-
They’re a little bit smaller. I don’t have a lot of info on them in the book that I’m working on, but I *do* have a little section that involves Japanese balls as part of an outstanding prank.

You’ve probably been there, but Tiger Stadium and the Kingdome interest me. The Kingdome is probably relatively generic in that it’s a dome. And the Astrodome too! As well as Candlestick. I know that place is a disaster of a stadium, but in terms of snagging, with it’s crazy wind, and that’s it’s a football stadium too, the mind wanders. But the real defunct stadium you should blog about, since I’m sure you little nothing about it, is Shea Stadium, in New York. They used to be home of the New York Mets. It used to feel like a baseball stadium, unlike where that NY team currently plays. Back when the NL had a New York baseball team that played with heart, and mattered. I wish I remembered what that felt like.
Ben

Nice pics and a great entry, Zach. According to author Phillip J. Lowry of “Green Cathedrals”, the right field netting was connected to the 9.5′ high concrete wall because he personally witnessed Roberto Clemente play defense off of that 14.5′ high screen “as if it were a violin”. He also says in the 1920′s, autos were repaired and sold under the left field bleachers.

~~sfgyrosfan~~

p.s. I also read somewhere that each Japanese home team plays with its own customized ball size within a league-wide permissible range. Weird, huh?

Zack,
That analysis was awesome. I would be curious to see what snagging balls at the polo Grounds would have been like. Hey did you have a chance to read “Miracle Ball” yet. Written by Brien Biegel. A great read.

Mike in Detroit…

BEN-
Funny about Shea. But as for the other stadiums you mentioned…I don’t think I’m going to do these entries for places that I’ve actually been to. It just wouldn’t be as interesting for me. But who knows? Maybe someday…

SFGYROSFAN–
Whoa, those are some cool facts you dug up. Thanks for letting me know.

MIKE IN DETROIT-
Hey. Sorry for the slow reply. I did read that book. Very entertaining, although the writing itself annoyed me at times. As for the Polo Grounds, your wish has been granted. I just blogged about it a few hours ago:

http://snaggingbaseballs.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/02/polo_grounds_snagging_analysis.html

the area behind the park looks like it would be a great place to wait for baseballs from bp and the game if you didnt have a ticket great blog check out mine everyone at
http://everythingbaseball.mlblogs.com

No one from Pittsburgh who is old enough must read this site. I come here from time to time, just to feel like a kid again.
Facts from a native who now lives far away and misses old-style baseball:
- Poor kids who couldn’t afford game tickets did in fact wait outside to get home runs that came over the walls. They were not disappointed. Balls used to get hit as far as the Schenley park fountain.
- That last photo is the amazing game-winning bottom-of-the-ninth home run by Bill Mazeroski in the final game of 1960 against the Yankees, best world series in the history of baseball. This photo is famous enough to have been on display in an out-door art exhibit in the Gardens of Luxembourg in Paris, along with things like Jesse Owens at the ’36 Olympics.
- Clemente is the greatest player in history. He could catch a ball over his shoulder, spin around and without looking, throw out a guy at home plate, right into the catcher’s glove. Will never be a better stadium built for better baseball. Period.

CUBFANFUL-
True.

ROSIE-
Thanks for weighing in here. Always nice to hear from folks who are so knowledgeable.

Zach – I am an architect in Pittsburgh. I am amazed by the photo showing people about 50 stories above Forbes Field. I can only imagine that this photo was taken from the top of the Cathedral of Learning. Do you know, can you verify?

Cool. Thanks for asking. I had no idea what the answer was until people started commenting. Look through what everyone else said, and you’ll see that someone else thinks it’s the cathedral.

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