A World-Class Celebration

Yesterday was a special day for fans of Pittsburgh sports.  The world turned its eyes to Pittsburgh as the city celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Pirates’ 1960 World Series victory over the New York Yankees.  More than a dozen Pirates alumni came to Pittsburgh to be part of the festivities, which kicked off yesterday morning in Schenley Plaza.  A sidewalk plaque honoring Bill Mazeroski, who hit the game-winning home run, was unveiled near the Forbes Field wall by Richard Reed of the Parks Conservancy and Frank Coonelly of the Pirates.  Then it was over to the wall for a special program by the Game 7 Gang, who introduced players to the thousand or so people who turned out to listen to the radio broadcast of the game. 

Following the broadcast, the players made their way to PNC Park for a 1960 Victory Gala in their honor.  The event, which benefited the Parks Conservancy and Pirates Charities, raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars and provided Pirate fans with an evening full of memories.  Among the special treats was a sneak preview of the recently-unearthed video footage of Game 7, including postgame interviews with the ecstatic players and staff.  Thanks so much to Major League Baseball for providing this footage; we can’t wait to see the full game when it’s broadcast on the MLB Network in December!

Some photos from the day are below.  You can also see more news coverage and photos at the following links:

– Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: A half-century later, it’s still the Pirates’ day
– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Game 7 ‘still feels like it happened yesterday’
– USA TODAY: Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski: 50 years later, shot still echoes
– Yahoo! Sports: Pittsburgh celebrates 1960 World Series victory
– Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: 1960 Victory Gala Photos
– Whirl Magazine: Victory Gala Photos

A close-up look at the sidewalk plaque.

Sidewalk plaque

Bill Mazeroski signs autographs at Schenley Plaza.

Bill Mazeroski

Richard Reed, Executive Vice President of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Bill Mazeroski, and Frank Coonelly, President of the Pittsburgh Pirates, at the plaque unveiling.

Plaque unveiling

A representative from Councilman Shields’ office proclaims it 1960 World Series Day in the City of Pittsburgh.

Council proclamation

“Raise your hand if you actually went to Game 7!”

Game 7 attendees

The 1960 players gather at the Forbes Field wall before the Game 7 Gang introduces them to fans.


We got some fun photos of some of the players as they greeted the crowd.  First up, Bob Friend:

Bob Friend

Dick Groat:

Dick Groat

Vernon Law:

Vernon Law

Bill Mazeroski:

Bill Mazeroski

Bob Oldis:

Bob Oldis

Hal Smith:

Hal Smith

Several couples attending the celebration met on the day of the game and were celebrating their own special anniversaries.


Folks turned out in their Pirates gear and with many souvenirs:

Pirate gear

The amount of Pirates memorabilia on display at this event every year is pretty astonishing.

Pirate memorabilia

The nighttime gala took place on the field at PNC Park.  At right is Parks Conservancy President and CEO Meg Cheever, who shared that her favorite part of the 1960 pep rally ticket was the phrase “Everybody welcome.”  Because, as she said, isn’t that what parks are all about?

PNC Park

The players watch themselves being interviewed by Bob Prince on the postgame show of the 1960 World Series.

Pirate alumni

Photos by Mary Jane Bent and Melissa McMasters.

1960 World Series Memories

We caught up with a few people at yesterday’s 1960 World Series celebration and asked them to share their memories of the Series-winning home run and Forbes Field.  You can see the videos below, along with a few stories shared by Herb Soltman, leader of the Game 7 Gang.

A Home Run for Pittsburgh

Following is the Parks Conservancy’s essay that appeared in the program for the 1960 Victory Gala held last night at PNC Park.  The Pirates shared some great images with us for the piece, so we thought we’d share them with you too.  Click the images to see larger versions.

When Bill Mazeroski hit that pitch from Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry, the baseball soared over left-fielder Yogi Berra’s head, cleared the wall of Forbes Field, and landed in the area known as Schenley Plaza.  Back then, Schenley Plaza was a large parking lot, situated between Forbes Field, the Carnegie Library, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.  But 50 years before that legendary home run ball landed there, Schenley Plaza was the grand entrance to Schenley Park.

Forbes Field Lights

Schenley Plaza under the Forbes Field lights, circa 1940s

And a few hours later, it was to Schenley Park that an overwhelmed Maz and his wife Milene retreated, as the raucous celebration he had sparked continued throughout Pittsburgh.  “There wasn’t a soul around—just a squirrel or two. That was so relaxing,” Maz would remember years later.

Pittsburgh’s urban parks—like those in many other cities—were created during this country’s greatest era of industrial growth to provide just those qualities that Bill and Milene found in Schenley Park that special evening.  They were places for relaxation and escape:  antidotes for the grim working conditions that most residents faced daily. While Maz’s story is unique, hundreds of people still go to our parks for the same peaceful welcome and retreat that the Mazeroskis needed that evening.

From the late 1800’s until World War II, Pittsburgh’s urban park system thrived and grew.  After the war, as more people moved to the suburbs and found recreation outside the city limits, the parks began to suffer.   As fewer people used the parks, they became an afterthought to the public officials who made budget decisions. Frick, Highland, Riverview and Schenley, as well as many of the 171 other parks in the City, suffered noticeably for decades.

Aerial 1940s

Schenley Plaza and Forbes Field from above, 1940s

The Parks Conservancy was established in 1996 in response to the declining conditions of our four large regional parks.   From the beginning, the Parks Conservancy has worked side-by-side with the City of Pittsburgh to restore the park system to its earlier greatness and improve the quality of life for  the people who live and work in  Pittsburgh.  In 14 short years, the Parks Conservancy has raised nearly 50 million dollars for park restoration and maintenance, and completed 11 major capital improvement projects.  They include the Riverview Park Chapel Shelter, the Highland Park Entry Garden, and the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center.

Now the City is encouraging the Parks Conservancy to extend its work beyond the four great regional parks, as resources permit.  In 2010, the Parks Conservancy restored the Walled Garden in Mellon Park Shadyside, and formally adopted projects in several new parks, such as Cliffside Park in the Hill District and McKinley Park in Beltzhoover.

Today, Schenley Plaza has been restored to its original status as the grand and welcoming entrance to Schenley Park.  The big parking lot where Maz’s home run landed is once again an emerald lawn that  has welcomed over one million visitors since it was restored in 2006  On the spot where—on October 13, 1960—you could have seen that fabled baseball clear the Forbes Field wall, the PNC carousel twirls hundreds of children each year.  

Pep Rally Ticket

A ticket to a 1960 World Series pep rally at Schenley Plaza

A few feet away, generations of baseball fans continue to visit the preserved Forbes Field wall.  The Parks Conservancy, in conjunction with Pirates Charities and the City of Pittsburgh, has installed a bronze plaque in the nearby sidewalk.  It honors Bill Mazeroski and his role in one of baseball’s—and Pittsburgh’s—greatest moments.

Many thanks to the Pirates organization and members of the 1960 World Championship team for partnering with the Parks Conservancy to help make this event possible.

1960 World Series Celebration


Mazeroski rounding third base; courtesy of AP

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is partnering with Pirates Charities on Wednesday, October 13 to mark the 50th anniversary of Bill Mazeroski’s home run that made the Pittsburgh Pirates the 1960 World Series Champions.  We’d like you to be a part of this special celebration!

We’ll start the festivities at 11:45 a.m. with a public unveiling of a sidewalk plaque honoring Mazeroski for his walk-off home run.  The ceremony will take place near the old Forbes Field wall at the intersection of Schenley and Roberto Clemente Drives in Oakland. Pirates officials and 1960 team alumni are scheduled to attend. 

Forbes Field

Schenley Plaza and Forbes Field in the 1940s; courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates

A recording of the original radio broadcast will be played at the Forbes Field wall and in Schenley Plaza.  An annual event, this re-broadcast attracts hundreds of people each year but is expected to draw thousands in conjunction with the 50th anniversary.  Ballpark food will be available and there’s sure to be an impressive collection of Pirates memorabilia on hand.

The connection between Pirates baseball and its old neighbor Schenley Park is a strong one: in fact, after hitting the home run that sent a city into jubilation, Mazeroski went to the park with his wife to reflect on the moment in a quiet place.  It’s only fitting that he’ll return to the park next week to remember that day.  We hope you’ll come out and join the celebration!

Mary and Barney

Mary Schenley and Barney Dreyfuss

Mary Schenley and Barney Dreyfuss

You know how sometimes you learn something new and then you start reading or hearing about it everywhere?  Well, something like that happened to me recently as I was working on a grant proposal requesting funds to restore the Mary Schenley memorial.  (The memorial is the magnificent fountain and sculpture across the street from the Schenley Plaza tent.)  I was reading about the history of the fountain in “Nature’s Music in Steel Town: The Planning Schenley Memorial and Plaza, 1891-1923” (© Don Simpson 2007, written as his Senior Honors Thesis while at the University of Pittsburgh).  It seems that — at least in an indirect way —  the siting of the Mary Schenley Memorial fountain was due to Forbes Field.

And who was responsible for building Forbes Field?  Barney Dreyfuss.

And where have you heard that name recently?  Barney, who became an owner of the Pirates when they were still the Alleghenies, just got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Historic image of Forbes Field

Historic image of Forbes Field

You can read about Barney’s contributions to the game of baseball elsewhere, but I want to focus on Forbes Field and Mary’s memorial.  The Pirates had been playing at Exposition Park and Recreation Park near Downtown when Barney decided in the winter of 1908-09 that the Pirates deserved a better ballpark.  He found his site in Oakland.

“There was nothing there but a livery stable and a hot house, with a few cows grazing over the countryside.  A ravine ran through the property and I knew that the first thing necessary to make it suitable for baseball was to level off the entire field.”  (Read more here.)

The ravine that Dreyfuss notes was St. Pierre’s Ravine, a Schenley Park boundary.  Bellefield Bridge traversed the ravine as the entryway to the park.  When Dreyfuss built Forbes Field in 1909, some of St. Pierre’s Ravine was, in fact, filled in to create the outfield.  By 1911, Dreyfuss was arguing that the left field wall (along the ravine) was too close to home plate and made for cheap homeruns, so he wanted to extend the ballpark into Schenley Park.  Although this violated the 1891 deed forbidding that the land be used for anything but a park, Dreyfuss got his way.  City council voted on April 11, 1909 to allow the Pirates to lease a half acre of park land for $1,000/year for 20 years.  At the same council meeting, an ordinance was also passed to erect a memorial to Mary Schenley — partly to appease those who were against giving park land to the Pirates.

St. Pierres Ravine where Schenley Plaza now sits

St. Pierre's Ravine where Schenley Plaza now sits

Dreyfuss had the left field wall of Forbes Field moved, requiring that more of St. Pierre’s Ravine be filled in.  The City’s Department of Public Works (DPW) was not happy with the structure of the new wall, claiming that the Pirates had not followed their original plans.  (The wall wasn’t changed, and its remains are where loyal Pirates fans still celebrate Bill Mazeroski’s 7th game, 9th-inning home run that won the 1960 World Series. ) Still angry, DPW submitted a design for Schenley Plaza, which required filling in the rest of the ravine.  In fact, in 1913, they opened the Bellefield Bridge to public dumping, in hopes of speeding up the process.

Mary Schenley Fountain in its early years

Mary Schenley Fountain in its early years

In late 1914, architects were invited to submit proposals for Schenley Plaza, and the winner cleverly dealt with the problem of unstable fill in the ravine by using the Bellefield Bridge as the foundation for the  Schenley Memorial.  It took another four years of review by City departments and arts commissions, but the memorial fountain was finally dedicated on September 2, 1918 as the Pirates played the second game of a doubleheader with the Cubs in nearby Forbes Field.

Forbes Field is now gone, but the Mary Schenley memorial remains.  When the restoration is complete this Fall, it will once again shine as the capstone of Schenley Plaza.