Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 35: West Field

Before going to the Pittsburgh Pirates game on June 23, 2009, we did some driving around the area to locate some of the old professional ballparks. One of them is West Field. It is located in Munhall, Pennsylvania, off of West St between 19th Avenue and Orchard Street. It is not exactly obvious to find since it is back behind buildings and street signs are rather pathetic in the Pittsburgh area as we discovered a lot. The best way to spot it is to be looking up and find it by seeing the stadium lights.

West Field was used by the Homestead Grays, a Negro Leagues team. Great players such as Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson were among those that once played at West Field. I am not exactly sure the years it was used, but I think somewhere from the 1930s to 1940s. I think it was mostly used for weekday games, as I know they also played at Forbes Field, which I will post more on in its own post later.

Seeing West Field reminded me of going to Ancient Greek and Roman ruins in Turkey. The stadium is pretty much all still there, but it has been very neglected over the decades. The stands are still in decent condition, although a few areas are fixed up with wooden boards and many of the hand rails in the aisles are rusted to the point that pieces are missing from some. You can walk up a ramp to the concourse on top of the stands or walk up the steps from the bottom aisle. The field itself is in very sorry shape and the infield is converted to a sad dirt softball field. The dugouts are in okay condition and you can sit in them, but there is some grafitti in them. You can also walk down the tunnels under the stands until you get to a locked door that I assume leads to at least what used to be locker rooms.

Overall this was an interesting old ballpark to visit even though it was not actually a former MLB ballpark. It has just as much historical significance and perhaps even more than some of the actual former MLB parks since some of the greatest players of that era, such as Josh Gibson, never lived to be able to play in the MLB after the color barrier was broken. It is kind of sad to see it in such a sorry state, but at least it has not been demolished and replaced with some sort of building. Also, nice is that it remains a public park and you can actually walk on the field unlike League Park in Cleveland, where the infield was all fenced off. Lastly, at least West Field is in way better shape than that park.

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