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Happy 39th!

July 16, 2009 - John Mehno

It was 39 years ago tonight that Three Rivers Stadium opened with a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pirates. Both teams, by the way, would win their respective divisions that season and meet in the playoffs. Long, long time ago.

Anyway, if you weren't there, I can't convey how much excitement there was that Pittsburgh had a state-of-the-art multi-purpose stadium with a private club, artificial turf and a scoreboard that was capable of showing animaton and dot-matrix likenesses of the players.

People started getting nostalgic for Forbes Field about five years later. It wasn't because Forbes Field was that great. It had fallen into major disrepair over its last 10 years. But Three Rivers was such a rotten baseball park that people longed for a grass field and decent sightlines and a hand-operated scoreboard that updated all the scores inning by inning.

Even with contending teams that played exciting baseball, the Pirates were hard-pressed to draw a million fans some years. Attendance never reached respectable levels until the '90s. By then, they'd overhauled the park and covered a lot of the upper deck seats that were useless for baseball anyway.

The Pirates kicked and squawked and finally wound up with a new baseball-only park that was built on someone else's tab. It was supposed to make the team more competitive, but you know how that's worked out.

So on July16, we take a look back at a terrible facility that was home to some great teams.

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