Saturday, October 29, 2016

Exposition Park Gets Remembered

Back in 1995, when Pittsburgh hosted the annual convention of the Society of American Baseball research (SABR), some members of the Pittsburgh Chapter (Dan Bonk, Len Martin, Ed Luteran, Dennis Repp, Dennis DeValeria among them) researched and pinpointed the location - probably within about fifteen feet or so - of home plate of Exposition Park, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1890 to 1909.  (How they were able to do this is a fascinating story which I will not go into at this point.) The spot was commemorated by a spray-painted home plate in a parking lot of Three Rivers Stadium.

Since them a lot has happened:  PNC Park and Heinz Field were built, Three Rivers Stadium was imploded, and the area between the two stadiums has been developed and has boomed with new office buildings, restaurants, and parking garages.  Yet, the spray-painted Expo home plate remained, sitting in a parking lot at the corner of General Robinson Street and Tony Dorsett Drive, becoming more faded with each passing year.  Yesterday, however, a step was taken to ensure that this little piece of Pittsburgh and baseball history would not be forgotten when this more permanent vinyl marker was placed on the spot.

Credit for getting this done goes out to a lot of people, but, first and foremost, the lion's share goes to my friend Len Martin.  Len, who along with Dan Bonk, co-authored the 1994 "Forbes Field Build-It-Yourself" book, has been on this project like a dog on a bone for as long as I have known him.  Len, along with local historians Craig Britcher and Andy Terrick, continue to research, not only Exposition Park, but other venues and sites where baseball, both amateur and professional, was played in Pittsburgh even before Exposition Park came along.  Len also designed the home plate marker that you see above.

Thanks also go out to the following on this project:

  • The aforementioned Craig Britcher and Andy Terrick.  Craig is a friend and a curator at the Heinz History Center and Western PA Sports Museum, and I always love to give a plug to the History Center!
  • Brian O'Neill, columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, whose recent column about this project stirred a lot of interest among the general population of the city.
  • Pittsburgh parking magnate Merrill Stabile, who met with Len and gave his blessing on the installation of this marker in one of his parking lots.  Word is that Mr. Stabile is also open to a similar commemoration of the home plate spot of Three Rivers Stadium.
  • To a lesser extent, Len's and Dan's fellow Saturday morning breakfast mates, Jim Haller and Yours Truly.  This project has been discussed much over the course of our many years of breaking bread together.
I will leave you with some scenes from yesterday on location at Exposition Park.

The prep work and installation of the marker:

There were several supervisors for this job.  Kind of like a  PENDOT project.  The gentleman on the right is Jack, a producer from Root Sports.  Yes, you might - MIGHT - be seeing this story on Inside Pirates Baseball during an early season rain delay!

Brian O'Neill and Len Martin

Craig, Jack, and Len admire a job well done.

Len settling in to receive the first pitch!

Len, Myself, and Craig

This is what you see today when you dig in at home plate at Exposition Park.  Yes, your Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is produced everyday in shallow right-centerfield.

Meanwhile, three blocks away back at PNC Park, this former denizen of Exposition Park looks on in approval.

Len, Craig, and I score the first runs on this new home plate.

We already saw a few people looking on curiously as they walked through the parking lot yesterday afternoon.  Feel free to check it out yourself someday soon.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, my friends and I stopped by to visit home plate, but we only saw the yellow spray-painted home plate. There was no vinyl plate as shown in the article. Was that removed?