Crazy for Baseball

Going to bat for our National Pastime.



As February turns into March, we start to hear scores from Bradenton and other grapefruity towns. Spring training always seems too early, too winter-oblivious. Call it Florida flaky.

But there’s something reassuring about such goofiness, reminding us that the groundhog’s terrified prediction is for only six weeks, and as March starts, winter is (or will soon be) fading fast. Real baseball starts March 31, and in spite of steroids and a string of losing seasons, folks will soon be quietly sneaking out of work for the home opener on Monday afternoon April 7. When people talk of playing hooky for baseball games, those of us who work in Oakland try to imagine what it might be like if Forbes Field were still here, still sitting on the edge of Schenley Park along Bouquet Street. How tempting would that be? Would any spring or summer work get done at WQED? Or CMU or Pitt? Would there be summertime patients, doctors or nurses at UPMC?

Well, a few years ago, my favorite University of Pittsburgh archivist, Miriam Meislik, showed me this photo that she had come across in one of the collections at Pitt’s Archives Service Center in Point Breeze. It’s a 1912 image of two enthusiastic baseball fans who have found free seats beyond the outfield. Their horses and wagon are parked just below their perch, and they obviously didn’t need the ladder to get up the telephone pole they’re sitting on.

Men dressed differently back then, and these guys climbed the pole wearing coats and hats. I guess we wouldn’t be surprised to find out they have neckties on, too. In the photo, the hat on the man on the right is aligned exactly with one of the Carnegie Institute’s smokestacks, and it looks as if he’s blowing smoke out the top of his head. Who knows how the Pirates were playing that day.

If the photographer had just taken three or four steps toward the men, he might have snapped them silhouetted against the sky, and it would have been an even better photo, but maybe he didn’t want them to know he was immortalizing their frugal resourcefulness.

But the landscape of Oakland in the shot is interesting, too. Just to the right of the two gawkers, down at ground level, you can see the railing of the famous Bellefield Bridge across Saint Pierre’s Ravine, the end of which appears near the right edge of the photo. That ravine was a small valley between Forbes Field and the Carnegie Library that would be filled in about three years later when the topography of the neighborhood was being adjusted to make Schenley Plaza. The bridge was buried in the process, and there’s something oddly intriguing about a massive stone-arch bridge that’s still there, just quietly biding its time under the ground.

But the center of the photo is the subject: People will go anywhere for sports. And if you can avoid doing some work, it’s all the sweeter. The contours of the Earth may change, the internal combustion engine may replace horses, men’s fashions will come and go, but it’s always fun to sneak away on a spring day and climb a telephone pole to watch the game, especially for free.

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
12 Hot New Restaurants

12 Hot New Restaurants

A diverse crop of eateries caught our attention this year, so we’re highlighting some of our favorites.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.

The 412

Local Developer Creates Pittsburghese Plugin for Google Chrome

Local Developer Creates Pittsburghese Plugin for Google Chrome

Have a little fun as you search the Web.
Pittsburgher Ali Spagnola Releases an App Version of Her 'Power Hour' Album

Pittsburgher Ali Spagnola Releases an App Version of Her 'Power Hour' Album

The creator of the app — which takes any playlist on your smartphone or tablet and plays it in one-minute pieces — reminds users to please drink responsibly.
NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

The group behind the station's Sandwich Monday blog series orders the iconic sandwich and writes a review.
Pittsburgh Has 'America's Ugliest Accent'

Pittsburgh Has 'America's Ugliest Accent'

The results of the Gawker poll are in: We’re No. 1.

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

PittGirl doesn't know why we say "warsh" — but she has figured out why we 'Burghers hit the brakes at the sight of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
12 Hot New Restaurants

12 Hot New Restaurants

A diverse crop of eateries caught our attention this year, so we’re highlighting some of our favorites.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.
40 Under 40: 2014

40 Under 40: 2014

In their own ways, the 40 men and women we introduce here show us daily how we can ensure that Pittsburgh is deserving of its Most Livable City title.