Battered Hill District ball yard reborn as Josh Gibson Field
May 26, 2009 4:00 AM
Coaches Russell Jarrett, left, and Dane Smith cheer on their Crawfords. Macedonia Baptist Church is in the background.
The Pittsburgh Crawfords line up to shake hands with the New York Black Yankees after a game on Saturday at the refurbished Josh Gibson Field in the Hill District.
By Kevin Kirkland Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For years, fielders from the Josh Gibson Little League have battled odd infield hops and outfield ruts on their home field in the Hill District. On Saturday, they got to see for the first time what it's like to play on a smooth, true infield and a lush, emerald-green outfield.
Today, the people who made the $300,000 transformation possible will get to see it, too. At 4 p.m., representatives of the Pirates, Major League Baseball, Del Monte Foods and the Grable Foundation will officially open and dedicate Josh Gibson Field on Bedford Avenue.
Formerly known as Ammon Field, the diamond behind the Ammon Recreation Center and Macedonia Baptist Church has been used as far back as the 1920s.
Josh Gibson, the Negro Leagues slugger who was a member of both the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays, played there early in his career. He died just months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues but in the 1970s, he became the second Negro Leaguer named to the Hall of Fame.
Sean Gibson, his great-grandson and executive director of the Josh Gibson Foundation, said the field renovation project has been long and difficult, but well worth it. The renovated complex features two fields with new turf and infields, four dugouts, bleachers, scoreboard, sprinkler system, concession stand with ADA-compliant restrooms and a press box where youngsters can learn to be sports announcers.
In addition to Gibson, speakers will include Bob Nutting, Pirates chairman of the board, and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. Pirates Charities led the project with aid from MLB's Baseball Tomorrow Fund. Pirates pitcher Ian Snell also personally contributed to the project. Youngsters from the little league will play during the celebration.