This Day in Baseball History: March 1, 1909

Oh, nostalgia. Three Rivers was pretty hideous, but they made up for it with PNC Park.

On March 1, 1909:

The Pittsburgh Pirates begin construction on their new stadium, Forbes Field.

Wow, two Pirates stories in two days. Oh the days when the Pirates actually meant something.

There were problems with Exposition Park, the predecessor to Forbes Field. Actually, there really was one — the Allegheny River. Built on essentially the same ground as Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park, Exposition Park was constantly flooded by the neighboring rivers. It was the first park to use tarp to protect the infield, but when the rivers flooded, the outfield became a swampland. Owner Barney Dreyfuss decided a change was necessary.

Instead of building the park in Pittsburgh itself, Dreyfuss went 10 minutes outside of town to the Schenley Park District, and he bought a piece of land near the Carnegie Library because it was cheaper. Initially, Dreyfuss received a lot of criticism. Fans wanted the stadium inside the city where they could get to it more easily, but as the trolley system developed, this was less of a problem. Investors also worried about the location. It wasn’t a very developed area, but once the site was chosen, the area began to develop around it, thus making it a much better location. Once known as “Dreyfuss’ Folly”, its history followed along with Seward’s Folly and became a great success.

The reason Dreyfuss chose the location was because it was cheap. Dreyfuss wanted to spend most of the money on the stadium itself. He had a new idea for ballpark construction — steel and concrete instead of wood. Dreyfuss wanted a three-tiered palace for his team, so he used the new materials in order to make it grander and more durable. Forbes Field would open 122 days after the beginning of construction, a pretty amazing feat. Dreyfuss called it “the happiest day of his life” when the stadium opened, but his team lost 3-2 to the rival Chicago Cubs.

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