There’s been a lot of interest in Pittsburgh’s long, gone Greenlee Field. With the impending release of the Strat-O-Matic Negro League Set, I’ve been asked whether or not this park is going to be included as part of the project. The answer, hardcore baseball simulation fans, is YES! Greenlee, along with several other venues from the defunct black leagues will be included as part of the offering.
Now on to that mysterious right field wall in Pittsburgh. Greenlee was the field constructed by Pittsburgh Crawfords’ owner Gus Greenlee back in the early 1930s. It was torn down after only 7 seasons and sold to the government. Although the home park of several legendary Hall of Famers, including Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, very few photographs of the venue survive. There’s also been a bit of mystery regarding the construction of the park, including the size of the right-field wall.
In Philip J. Lowry’s Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks, he writes of Greenlee “(There was an) embankment in play in front of a very low one-foot-high concrete wall in front of the bleachers in right, which were up on a hill.”
In another book (perhaps the one written by Eric Enders), it is suggested the one-foot-high wall was (and I’m paraphrasing here), the shortest fence in Major League history. (Edit: Turns out, NO, this isn’t from Enders’ book)
Now, most of this is accurate. There WAS a one-foot-high concrete wall in front of the bleachers (actually, the wall was probably closer to two or three feet high), and the stands were, indeed, built into the side of a hill. But it turns out there was a fence in play, as well, which to my knowledge has never been mentioned before. By using the zoom feature on one of the photographs at the Pittsburgh Historical Society’s online archives, we can see the outline of what is clearly a wire fence with wood frames in front of the bleachers. In fact, it appears this fence is probably 12 or 14 feet tall!
So, yes, there was a short concrete wall, but this was merely the base for a regulation height, chicken wire fence. Small detail, yes, but I think it’s important to set the record straight. Take a gander below…