Circa 1905: "Exposition Park"
Fred Carroll was, by all accounts, an outstanding catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he made history at Exposition Park. But that’s not why he’s worth remembering. He should be remembered for his pet monkey. He had it when he played for the old Alleghenys, the team that preceded the Pirates. The monkey went with him everywhere, and so when it died, the logical thing to do was bury its stiffening corpse beneath home plate at Recreation Park, where the Alleghenys played. When the grieving catcher squatted into position, he could reach out and touch the grave of his deceased buddy.
That was in 1887. By 1891, the Alleghenys were gone, and Carroll was playing for the Pirates at a handsome new ballfield on the banks of the Allegheny River. On April 24 of that year, Carroll put himself in the record books by becoming the first Pirate to hit a home run at Exposition Park.
Ah, those were the days. Pirates were known for having monkeys as companions, not as burdens on their backs. And ballparks doubled as pet cemeteries. And as lakes.
At times, the Allegheny River rose up and encroached on the outfield at Exposition Park, which was home to the Pirates from 1891 to 1909.
On July 4, 1902, water stood a foot deep in some sections of the outfield, and lapped within 20 feet of second base. Still, the Pirates swept a doubleheader against Brooklyn. The one concession to the flood? A ball hit into the water was a ground rule single. The park flooded so often that center field was named “Lake Dreyfuss,” in honor of team owner Barney Dreyfuss.
Fans entered Exposition Park through a set of very cool twin spires and sat in a roofed wooden grandstand or in open bleacher sections. Total capacity was about 10,000. The place is notable for reasons other than its flooding. Exposition Park is where Honus Wagner established himself as the game’s best shortstop. And on Oct. 6, 1903, the park was the site of the first World Series game in a National League city.
Our files contain two panoramic views of Exposition Park. We can only show a portion of them on the Digs, but you can seem them in all their glory on the Post-Gazette’s Zoom page.
Dreyfuss moved his team out of Exposition Park in 1909. He claimed the North Side neighborhood was going to the dogs. In fact, some complained that the city’s red light district was encroaching on the old ballpark. Plus, there was the flooding problem. So Dreyfuss took his team to a new concrete ballpark called Forbes Field.
We’re glad baseball is back on the North Side. Fred Carroll and his deceased monkey are long gone, but we do have Sauerkraut Saul and Oliver Onion. My, how times have changed.
— Steve Mellon