When the Cubs opened Forbes Field 100 years ago


(Forbes Field photo from public domain, taken July 5, 1909, shortly after opening)

For ballpark buffs out there — and fans of the Cubs must have a certain affection for the early steel-and-concrete parks — tonight’s game against the Pirates marks the centennial of Forbes Field, Pittsburgh’s ballpark from 1909-1970.

And did you know that the Cubs opened the ballpark exactly 100 years ago today?

They were winners, too: 3-2 in one hour and 54 minutes.

I spent some time this afternoon researching the Chicago Tribune’s archives and picked up Ring Lardner’s story that appeared in the July 1, 1909, edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for INSIDE THE IVY LOGO.jpgAs was typical of the time, the story doesn’t feature any quotes from the players, but it does feature some neat information on the opening of the $1-million ballpark. (For reference, Wrigley Field opened five years later as a Federal League park that cost just $250,000.)

? An over-capacity crowd of 36,338 broke baseball’s previous record by 91 fans. It was said to be a peaceful crowd that overflowed “from first base all the way around the outskirts of the yard.”

? Lardner: “If there had been no ball game at all the masses of sweltering humanity would have paid for their coming, for the stands on Forbes field look out on some of the prettiest scenery to be found in Pennsylvania. And the stands themselves are pretty enough to draw sightseers even if there was nothing else for them to see.

? The park was built almost entirely of Pittsburgh steel. (And at the time, the city was actually spelled “Pittsburg,” and written that way for a couple decades.)

? The pre-game ceremony, held before batting practice, featured the raising of the American flag and a pennant below that simply read “Forbes Field.”

? The beginning of the game was marked by the ringing of a gong (no joke or metaphor).

? Ed Reulbach started for the Cubs, who trailed the Pirates by 7.5 games. Reulbach outdueled Victor Willis, but Reulbach had to work in and out of jams all game because of his usual wildness. Johnny Evers made two errors at second base but also scored two of the Cubs’ three runs at leadoff. Jimmy Sheckard, the Cubs’ second hitter, scored the other, reaching on a walk. Honus Wagner went 2-4 with a run for the Pirates.

— Sean Ahmed

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