The Oscillating Fan of Learning

Many years ago, when I was not so knowledgeable about baseball’s past, I was looking through a book and found a picture of old Forbes Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates played their home games before moving into Three Rivers Stadium in 1970. The black-and-white photo showed a game in-progress as seen from the right field seats; what caught my attention was the obviously phony image of a skyscraper in the background, poorly crammed into the existing photo by some overzealous artist who didn’t care at all about realism.

I mean, c’mon! Was I supposed to think the ballpark was located in some empty section of downtown, where only one skyscraper had been built? It reminded me of those postcards I’d find in gas stations during vacation drives across the Midwest, showing a rabbit with antlers or a man standing next to a strawberry the size of a semi truck. I mean, pretty ridiculous, right?

Well, very ridiculous, I’d thought…until I found out the building was real! As I eventually discovered, Forbes Field was located next to the University of Pittsburgh campus, and the building in question was—and still is—known as the Cathedral of Learning, a 42-story steel-and-limestone monolith that’s home to over two thousand classrooms, labs, and administrative offices. And it did indeed tower menacingly over the left-field side of the ballpark as the photo depicts, and though I’m now aware the building actually exists, I still have a hard time believing what I’m seeing.

Anyway, I’m mentioning all of this for two reasons. The first has to do with an SP78 game I played the previous summer here in Arizona, at the living room table of my apartment. As usual during the summer months, it was quite warm outside, and being on the second floor, my place tends to attract the heat more so than usual, even with the a/c running. Not wanting to sweat all over the day’s festivities, I brought my desktop fan out from the bedroom and set it up next to the game board…and immediately realized how closely the scene resembled that photo of Forbes Field I’d seen years earlier:

Now, the second reason for this post relates to a photo I’d found that day years ago, which proved to me the existence of the Cathedral of Learning. I wanted to share this photo with you, because to me it’s one of the coolest baseball photographs I’ve ever seen, taken during the seventh game of the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and the host Pirates. Take a good look at the photo below; besides the obvious awesome vantage point for watching a game, look at where these fans are standing, and how close they are to the ledge…and there’s no fence or rail to hold them back!


A bygone moment from a bygone time, that sadly we’ll never see again…unless, of course, you visit my apartment in July, and watch me play a game on my living room table, where my Oscillating Fan of Learning still towers over—and cools—the SP78 playing field below it.

10 responses to “The Oscillating Fan of Learning

  1. The Cathedral of Learning is missing King Kong on the top swatting biplanes out of the sky. I remember checking this building out before on wiki since it’s bizarre to have a 42 story skyscraper on a University campus. Is this the “monolith” of SP78?

    • For some reason, when I saw the building I was reminded of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but Kong makes more sense! I read that the Cathedral is only the second tallest university structure in the world, after the one at Moscow State University…but the one there is FAR less dramatic, and doesn’t look near as tall. And yeah, I guess this would be the monolith of SP78…but the main statistics office is still at Northwestern University!

  2. Very cool pictures and a cool (literally) story! I hope those fans had a radio with them – I imagine it would be hard to really know what was happening from that distance. Top Deck at Dodger Stadium seems almost that far away . . . And my question to you, Mr. Commissioner, is whether the Oscillating Fan of Learning every blew off Andre Dawson’s cap the way the Candlestick wind did in the Summer of ’87?

    • The Oscillating Fan of Learning has shifted the scoresheet a few times with its outrageous winds, but it never blew the Hawk’s cap off (yet!), nor has it ever carried any player cards off the playing field. And if you look at that guy in the foreground of the 1960 World Series photo, he appears to be holding a transistor radio in his right hand. Either that, or he’s holding a compact reel-to-reel tape recorder that he’s using to send messages to his friend in California!

  3. Don’t forget the enormous 25 story can of Coke that sometimes graces the skyline around the SP78 field.

  4. A nice piece of history. Had no idea of a previous diamond then the current home of the Pirates. A few years ago on one of my trips to the monsterbash near Pittsburgh I went to a ballgame. Great timing as the Jay’s were there for interleague play. A really nice stadium I thought. Jay’s lost 1-0 in 10 innings with Roy Halladay on the mound. Great memories.

    • I’ve always known the Pirates’ home as Three Rivers Stadium…I never was able to see a game there, though, and it closed in 2000. I wouldn’t mind seeing one at the new place…that’s cool you were able to swing by there during Monsterbash. It would’ve been even cooler if you watched the game with a horror or sci-fi icon from the convention, but oh well, maybe next time.

  5. That really is a super-kewl photo from the ’60s – the vantage point is fabulous! And I would never have suspected that skyscraper was NOT superimposed on the 1st photo but it’s also an interesting perspective and a nice angle of an article in general Toadius – good going!!

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