Forbes Field

infobox stadium
name = Forbes Field
nickname = The House of Thrills

location = Oakland, adjacent to Schenley Park
coordinates =
broke_ground = March 1, 1909
built = March – June 1909
opened = June 30, 1909
renovated =
expanded =
closed = June 28, 1970
demolished =
owner =
operator =
surface = Grass
construction_cost = Estimated US$1 – 2 million
architect = Charles Leavitt, Jr.
structural engineer = Nicola Building Company
services engineer =
general_contractor =
project_manager =
main_contractors =
former_names =
tenants = Pittsburgh Pirates (1909–1970)
Pittsburgh Steelers (1933–1963)
University of Pittsburgh (1909–1924)
Homestead Grays (1922–1939)
capacity = 23,000 (1909)
41,000 (1925)
35,000 (1970)
dimensions =
scoreboard = Hand-operated

Forbes Field was a baseball park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1909 to 1971. It was the third home to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the first home to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the city's Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Football League (NFL) franchises, respectively. The stadium also served as the home football field for the University of Pittsburgh "Pitt" Panthers from 1909 to 1924. The stadium was named after British general John Forbes.

The US$1 million project was initiated by Pittsburgh Pirates' owner Barney Dreyfuss, with a goal of replacing his franchise's then-current home, Exposition Park. The stadium was made of concrete and steel—one of the first of its kind—to increase its lifespan. Forbes Field was opened and closed with games between the Pirates and Chicago Cubs. The field itself featured a large playing surface and the batting cage was placed in the deepest part of center field during games. Seating was altered multiple times throughout the stadium's life and fans would be permitted to sit on the grass in the outfield during overflow crowds. The Pirates won three World Series while at Forbes Field and though the Steelers often struggled, the Pittsburgh Panthers football team had five undefeated seasons while at the stadium.

Some remnants of the ballpark still stand. Fans gather on the site each year on the anniversary of Bill Mazeroski's World Series winning home run, in what author Jim O'Brien writes is, "one of the most unique expressions of a love of the game to be found in a major league city."


Planning and design

In 1903, Pirates' owner Barney Dreyfuss began to look for grounds to build a replacement of Exposition Park upon. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=15] Dreyfuss purchased seven acres of land near the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, adjacent to Schenley Park with assistance from his friend Andrew Carnegie.harvnb|Gershman|1993|pp=89] The land was purposely selected due to its low price so Dreyfuss could put more funding into the stadium itself. Drefuss signed a contract that he would, "make the ballpark...of a design that would harmonize with the other structures in the Schenley Park district."harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=16] The site was initially labeled "Dreyfuss's Folly" due to its long distance—a 10-minute trolley ride from downtown—however, the land around the park developed and criticisms were dropped.harvnb|Leventhal|2000|pp=52] Official Pirates' records show that Forbes Field cost US$1 million for site accusation and construction, however, some estimates place the cost at twice the amount.harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=99]

Unlike established wooden ballparks like the Polo Grounds, Dreyfuss announced he would build a three-tiered stadium out of steel and concrete to increase longevity.harvnb|McCollister|1998|pp=63] Charles Wellford Leavitt, Jr. was contacted to design the stadium's grandstand. A civil engineer, Leavitt opened an engineering and landscape architecture firm in 1897. He had gained experience in steel and concrete constructs while designing Belmont and Saratoga racetracks. Based on Dreyfuss' architectural requirements, Leavitt presented a plan for Forbes Field—the only ballpark he would design. Pirates' manager Fred Clarke also had input into the stadium's design. Clarke gave groundskeepers advice on the field, in addition to designing and patenting a device to spread and remove a canvas tarp over the infield in case of rain.harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=17]

Forbes Field was "the nation's first ballpark made completely of poured concrete and steel." [cite web |url=|title= Pirates' Timeline|accessdate=2008-08-31 |work= 1901–1925|publisher=] Initial work on the land began on January 1, 1909, but ground was not officially broken until March 1. Nicola Building Company built the stadium in 122 days and play began less than four months after ground was broken, on June 30. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=226] Though the scoreboard was operated by hand, the ballpark featured multiple innovations such as ramps and elevators to assist fan movement throughout the park, a room for the umpires, and a visiting clubhouse similar to the Pirates'. The facade of the stadium featured "buff-colored terra cotta" spelling out "PAC" (Pittsburgh Athletic Company). The light green steelwork contrasted with the red slate of the roof. Some members of the press urged Dreyfuss to name the stadium after himself. However, the owner dubbed Forbes Field after John Forbes, who captured Fort Duquesne from the French in 1758 and renamed it Fort Pitt.harvnb|McCollister|1998|pp=64] In 1935, after Dreyfuss' death, there was renewed media interest in renaming the stadium "Dreyfuss Field". His widow, Florence, resisted. However, a monument to Dreyfuss was placed in centerfield just in front of the wall.harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=23]

Quote box
quote =Pittsburg ["sic"] can now boast of the world's finest baseball park. It is a marvel of which people in other cities can have no adequate conception until they come here and see it.
source =— Fred Clarke
width =205px
align =right


On June 29, 1909, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Chicago Cubs by a score of 8–1, at Exposition park. The two teams opened Forbes Field the following day—June 30, 1909. Fans began to arrive at the stadium at 9:00 am for the game which started at 3:30 pm. Of the crowd, the "Pittsburgh Press" wrote, "the ceremonies were witnessed by the largest throng that ever attended an event of this kind in this or any other city in the country...Forbes Field is so immense—so far beyond anything else in America in the way of a baseball park—that old experts, accustomed to judging crowds at a glance, were at a loss for reasonable figures."cite web |url=|title= 35,000 Fans Help to Dedicate Ball Park|accessdate=2008-09-01 |work= Oakland: Forbes Field Opening Day|publisher= Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh|date= 1909-06-30] The first game was attended by a standing-room only crowd of 30,338. Various National League officials and owners were present for the opening pre-game ceremonies, including league president Harry Pulliam, Civil War veteran and manager of the first professional baseball team in Pittsburgh Al Pratt, and American League president Ban Johnson. Pittsburgh Mayor William A. Magee threw out the stadium's ceremonial fist pitch. The Chicago Cubs won the first game by a score of 3–2. Dreyfuss declared, "This is indeed the happiest day of my life." The stadium was considered the most beautiful in the majors.

Playing surface

Barney Dreyfuss "hated cheap home runs and vowed he'd have none in his park", which lead him to design a large playing field for Forbes Field. The original distances to the outfield fence in left, center, and right field were 360 feet, 462 feet, and 376 feet respectively. Even at its distance, the fence ranged from 12 feet in height in left and center field to 9½ feet in right. The backstop was set at 100 feet behind home plate, larger than the average of 60 feet in most stadiums of the time. Due to the outfield space, triples and inside-the-park home runs were common, but the stadium was the one of the most difficult to hit home runs out of. The first drive to clear the 89-foot right field roof was hit on May 25, 1935; Babe Ruth's last in the Major Leagues. Forbes Field developed a reputation as a "pitcher-friendly" ballpark, though a no-hitter was never thrown in over 4,700 games at the stadium. The Pirates hit a record eight triples in a single game, on May 30, 1925.Quote box
quote =There wasn't much flubdubber. You just got a ballgame. If you didn't like it, you could stay home.
source =— Art McKennan, PA announcer
width =250px
align =left
In 1925, the right field grandstand was extended into the corner and into fair territory, reducing the dimension from 376 to 300 feet.harvnb|Leventhal|2000|pp=53] Dreyfuss erected a 28-foot high screen to limit home runs.harvnb|Gershman|1993|pp=91] The batting cage would be placed in the 462-foot center field "Death Valley" because it was believed impossible to hit the ball that far. In right- and left-center fields, light towers stood on the field, and like the batting cage and flagpole in center field, were in-play. In 1947, after Dreyfuss' death, the bullpens were moved from foul territory to the base of the scoreboard in left and fenced in, cutting 30 feet from the left field corner, to 335. Forbes Field featured no advertisements or signs on outfield fences, except a 32-foot United States Marine billboard during the 1943 season. The infield developed a "rock-hard" surface throughout the stadium's history. During the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek was struck in the neck with a ball that had bounced off the hard dirt surface, breaking up a double-play and causing Kubek to have to exit the game. Groundskeepers would burn gasoline on the mound to dry it off.harvnb|McCollister|1998|pp=176] Pirates' play-by-play announcer Bob Prince nicknamed the ballpark, "The House of Thrills". [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=23]

eating and tickets

Quote box
quote =There are a reported 15,000 people at the game this afternoon. If that's true, then at least 12,000 of them are disguised as empty seats.
source =— Jim Woods [harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=129]
width =250px
align =right
Forbes Field had an original capacity of 25,000, the largest in the majors at the time. Seating at the stadium would be remodeled numerous times, peaking at a capacity of 41,000 in 1925 and closing in 1970 at 35,000 seats. Attendance on opening day was 30,338. On opening day, ticket prices ranged from $1.25 for box seats and $1 for reserved grand stand sections;harvnb|Gershman|1993|pp=90] temporary bleachers were set up for the occasion and cost $0.50. Ticket prices were considered high for the day, however, steel pillars supporting the roof occasionally blocked fans' views of the field. Two thousand bleachers were situated along the left field side, tickets were sold for a maximum of $1.harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=102] When winning streaks would attract high attendance to games, fans were permitted to sit on the grass in right field, provided they would agree to allow a player to catch any ball hit in the area.harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=103] The lowest season of attendance came in 1914 when 139,620 people attended games. The highest at the stadium came in 1960, when 1,705,828 people watched the Pirates play at Forbes Field. On September 23, 1956, the highest number of people to attend a Pirates' game, 44,932, gathered at Forbes Field to see the home team play the Brooklyn Dodgers. The game was cut short in the top of the ninth inning, after a rain delay forced it past the Pennsylvania Sunday curfew law. The Dodgers won the game 8–2 the following day.harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=227] At 200 people, June 10, 1938 marked the smallest crowd to ever attend a Pirates' game at Forbes Field.harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=226] On September 30, 1962, 40,916 people saw the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat to the New York Giants, at the Steelers' highest attended game at the stadium.


Though Forbes Field was praised upon its opening, it began to show its age after 60 years of use. The park was the second oldest baseball field in the league—younger than only Shibe Park in Philadelphia. The location of the park, which was initially criticized for not being developed, grew into a "bustling business district" which led to a lack of parking space. One sportswriter wrote that "The House of Thrills" had become "as joyless as a prison exercise yard".harvnb|Gershman|1993|pp=92] Following a plan to expand their adjacent campus, the University of Pittsburgh purchased Forbes Field in 1958, with an agreement to lease the stadium to the Pirates until a replacement could be built. [harvnb|Mehno|1995|pp=9–10] A proposal for a new sports stadium in Pittsburgh was first made in 1948, however, plans did not attract much attention until the late 1950s.harvnb|Mehno|1995|pp=9] Construction began on Three Rivers Stadium on April 25, 1968.harvnb|Mehno|1995|pp=10] The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs played a double-header on June 28, 1970.harvnb|McCollister|1998|pp=175] Pittsburgh won the first game 3–2. Al Oliver hit the last home run in the park, and Matty Alou drove in two runs as the Pirates closed the 62-year old stadium with a 4–1 victory. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=53] The 40,918 spectators in attendance stood and cheered as Bill Mazeroski retired Willie Smith for the final out at the stadium. [harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=104–5]

The abandoned structure suffered two separate fires that damaged the park, on Dec. 24, 1970; and July 17, 1971. Eleven days after that second fire, demolition began, and the site was cleared for use by the University of Pittsburgh. [cite book |title= Green Cathedrals|last= Lowry|first= Philip J|year= 1986|publisher= Society for American Baseball Research|isbn= |pages= 73] Quote box
quote =I saw a man sitting by the flagpole listening to a tape of the game.
source =— David Mazeroski, son of Bill
width =205px
align =left


The left-center and center field brick wall with "457 ft" and "436 ft" painted on it still stands, along with the stadium's flagpole, adjacent to the University of Pittsburgh's Mervis and Posvar Halls. This portion of the wall remained after Forbes Field was torn down, and was restored in 2006 for the All-Star game hosted in Pittsburgh.cite news |first= Tony|last= LaRussa|title= Forbes Field remnants restored|url=|publisher= Pittsburgh Tribune-Review|date= 2006-05-06|accessdate=2008-09-01] The portion of the left field wall over which Bill Mazeroski hit his walk-off home run in the 1960 World Series, between the scoreboard and the "406 ft" sign, no longer stands, but is outlined by bricks extending from the left-center field wall across Roberto Clemente Drive and into the sidewalk. A plaque embedded in the sidewalk marks the spot where the ball cleared the wall. A ceremony is held each October 13 near this spot to listen to a taped broadcast of the final game of the 1960 World Series. [harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=95] [cite book |title= We had 'em all the way|last= O'Brien|first= Jim|year= 1998|publisher= James P. O'Brien - Publishing|location= Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania|isbn= 1886348030|pages= 319–21] [cite news |first= Kevin|last= Kirkland|title= Fans relive joy of Pirates' 1960 World Series win|url=|publisher= "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"|date= 2008-10-10|accessdate=2008-10-10] The tradition was started by Squirrel Hill resident Saul Finkelstein, who at 1:05 pm on October 13, 1985, sat alone at the base of the flagpole and listened to the NBC radio broadcast of Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan.harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=150] Finkelstein continued the tradition for eight more years, until word spread and other people began attending in 1993. [harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=150] On October 13, 2000—the game's 40th anniversary—over 600 people attended to listen to the broadcast, including Mazeroski himself.harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=153] The home plate used in the stadium's final game remains preserved in the University of Pittsburgh's Posvar Hall. [cite news |title= Crosley Field and Forbes Field|url=|work= Destinations|publisher= CNN|accessdate=2008-09-01] However, its location has been altered; author John McCollister wrote, "Had architects placed home plate in its precise spot about half of the Pirates fans could not view it. The reason: it would have to be on display in the fifth stall of the ladies' restroom." [harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=105]



In 1909, Forbes Field's opening season, the Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. It would be the only meeting of eventual Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=18] In 1925, the Pirates became the first team to comeback from a three game to one deficit and win the World Series. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=21] Pittsburgh's third, and final, World Series championship while they played at Forbes Field came in 1960. Bill Mazeroski hit the first home run to end a World Series and as of 2007, the only walk-off home run in World Series Game Seven history. [cite web |url=|title= Bill Mazeroski|accessdate=2008-09-06 |work= The Hall of Famers|publisher= Baseball Hall of Fame] On October 2, 1920, Forbes Field hosted the last triple-header in MLB history. On August 5, 1921, Forbes Field was the site of the first MLB game broadcast on the radio. Harold Arlin announced the game over KDKA from a box seat next to the first-base dugout.harvnb|McCollister|2008|pp=104] Two unassisted triple plays were turned at Forbes Field. the first took place on May 7, 1925, when Pittsburgh's Glenn Wright achieved the feat. Two seasons later, in 1927, Jimmy Cooney—who had been a victim of the first triple play—also achieved the feat. Scenes from the 1951 film Angels in the Outfield were filmed at the stadium. On May 28, 1956, Dale Long of the Pirates took the first ever curtain call in baseball history after hitting a home run in his eighth consecutive game caused fans to cheer for five minutes.

The Homestead Grays played home games at Forbes Field exclusively from 1922 to 1939.harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=55] Gray's owner "Cum" Posey became friends with Dreyfuss, who rarely missed a Gray's game. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=55, 64] In 1930, Josh Gibson made his premiere for the Grays at Forbes Field. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=58]

Football and boxing

The University of Pittsburgh's football team moved from Exposition Park into Forbes Field upon its opening in 1909 and played there until 1924 when it moved into the larger Pitt Stadium only a few blocks away.harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=68] In their first game at Forbes Field on October 16, 1909, the Panthers defeated Bucknell University 18–6.harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=69] In 1910, Pitt's second year at Forbes Field, the Panthers went undefeated and did not give up a point. The Panthers had several outstanding seasons while playing at Forbes Field, including five in which they went undefeated, [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=223] and received various national championship selections in 1910, 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918. [cite web |url=|title=College Football Data Warehouse: Pittsburgh Total National Championships| accessdate=2008-09-07] During their years at Forbes Field, Pitt's teams was led by Hall of Fame coaches Joe Thompson, Glenn "Pop" Warner and Jock Sutherland. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=68–9]

Pittsburgh native, Art Rooney founded his NFL team under the name the Pittsburgh Pirates, on July 8, 1933, for $2,500.cite web |url=|title= Pittsburgh Steelers: Firsts, Records, Odds & Ends |accessdate=2008-06-21 |] harvnb|O'Brien|2001|pp=16] The franchise's first game, against the New York Giants, was held on September 20, 1933, [cite web |url=|title= 74 Years with the Steelers|accessdate=2008-06-21 |publisher=] at Forbes Field.harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=85] The Giants won the 8:30pm game in front of 25,000 people, 23–2.cite book |title= House of Steel: Heinz Field and the Dawn of a New Era in Pittsburgh|last= Wiebusch|first= John|year= 2002|publisher= NFL Creative|location= China|isbn= 0972166408|pages=95] Rooney wrote of the game, "The Giants won. Our team looks terrible. The fans didn't get their money's worth." [harvnb|O'Brien|2001|pp=17] The Pirates would rebound to gain their first ever franchise victory a week later at Forbes Field, against the Chicago Cardinals. The NFL's Pirates were renamed the Steelers in 1940, and otherwise struggled during much of their three-decades of tenancy at Forbes. The club finally achieved its first winning record in 1942, its tenth season of existence. [cite web |url=|title= Steelers' History|accessdate=2008-04-27 |publisher=Pittsburgh Steelers] On November 30, 1952, the Steelers met the New York Giants at Forbes Field for a snowy afternoon game. Pittsburgh entered the game with a 3–6 record, but went on to set multiple team records, including scoring nine touchdowns, to win the game 63–7. Excited by their team's play the 15,140 spectators ran onto the field and began to tear the field goal posts out of the ground. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=87] The University of Pittsburgh's acquisition of Forbes Field gave the Steelers some options, and in 1958 they began transferring some of their home games to the much larger Pitt Stadium. The Steelers played their final game at Forbes Field on December 1, 1963. The franchise would move to Pitt Stadium exclusively the following season.

Boxing bouts were held at Forbes Field from the 1910s to the 1950s, attracting crowds of over 15,000 people. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=76–84] On June 23, 1919, Harry "The Pittsburgh Windmill" Greb—the only boxer to beat Gene Tunney—defeated Mike Gibbons in a ten round bout at Forbes Field. On July 18, 1951, the heavyweight boxing championship was held at the stadium. In seven rounds, Ezzard Charles was knocked out by Jersey Joe Walcott. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=224] Another bout on September 25, 1939, was attended by 17,000 people including Art Rooney and Pie Traynor. Pittsburgh native Billy Conn defended his light heavyweight title against Melio Bettina, who he had beaten months earlier. Conn won the bout by decision in 15 rounds and became one of the most recognizable boxers in the city. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=81] Two years later, on June 18, 1941, Conn fought Joe Louis at New York City's Polo Grounds, in an attempt to become the world heavyweight champion. The Pirates and the New York Giants, who were playing at Forbes Field, were called into their dugouts while the 24,738 fans in attendance listened to the radio broadcast of the hour-long bout. Conn led the bout into the final round, but fought for the knockout and was knocked out himself, losing the fight. [harvnb|Cicotello|2007|pp=82]



*cite book |title= Forbes Field: essays and memories of the Pirates' historic ballpark, 1909–1971|last= Cicotello|first= David|coauthors= Angelo J. Louisa|year= 2007|publisher= McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers|location= Jefferson, North Carolina|isbn= 9780786427543
*cite book |title= Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark|last= Gershman|first= Michael|year= 1993|publisher= Houghton Mifflin|location= Boston, New York City|isbn= 0395612128
*cite book |title= Take Me Out to the Ballpark|last= Leventhal|first= Josh|coauthors= Jessica MacMurray|year= 2000|publisher= Workman Publishing Company|location= New York, New York|isbn= 1579121128
*cite book |title= The Bucs! The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates|last= McCollister|first= John|year= 1998|publisher= Addax Publishing Group|location= Lenexa, Kansas|isbn= 1886110409
*cite book |title= The good, the bad, and the ugly Pittsburgh Pirates|last= McCollister|first= John|year= 2008|publisher= Triumph Books|location= Chicago|isbn= 9781572439825
*cite journal |last= Mehno|first= John|year= 1995|title= History of the Stadium|journal= Pittsburgh Pirates Official 1995 Commemorative Yearbook|publisher= Sports Media, Inc.
*cite book |title= The Chief: Art Rooney and his Pittsburgh Steelers|last= O'Brien|first= Jim|year= 2001|publisher= James P. O'Brien - Publishing|location= Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania|isbn= 1886348065

External links

* [ Pittsburgh Pirates ballpark timeline]

succession box
title = Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates
years = 1909 – 1970
before = Exposition Park
after = Three Rivers Stadium
succession box
title = Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers
years = 1933 – 1963
before = first stadium
after = Pitt Stadium
succession box
title = Home of the Pittsburgh Panthers
years = 1909 – 1924
before = Exposition Park
after = Pitt Stadium
succession box
title = Host of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game
years = 1944
1959 (Game 1)
before = Shibe Park
Memorial Stadium
after = Fenway Park
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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