Barney Dreyfuss

This article was written by Sam Bernstein

In an issue published a few days after the grand opening of Forbes Field, Sporting Life extolled Pittsburgh team owner Barney Dreyfuss: “[he] had the mind to conceive and the courage to execute the plans which have given the world the grandest and most costly ball park in existence, deserves the greatest credit, highest praise, and utmost good fortune for his stupendous enterprise, which has ennobled the National League and enriched the city of Pittsburg.”[1] Not bad press for a man who just twenty-four years before had arrived from Freiburg, Germany with just a few dollars in his pocket, knowing very little English, with an invitation to work in his cousins’ bourbon distillery in Paducah, Kentucky.

Barney Dreyfuss was the embodiment of the American dream. Immediately after his arrival, Dreyfuss was motivated and focused. He managed the books for his cousins Isaac W. Bernheim and Bernard Bernheim. The Bernheim brothers sailed to America shortly after the Civil War beginning as peddlers but soon found themselves in Kentucky selling distilled spirits. Eventually they began processing their own Kentucky bourbon, I.W. Harper, and their business became a huge success. The Bernheims created opportunities for family members and they recruited Barney, who was clerking for a bank in Karlsruhe, Germany.[2]

The 19 year-old needed no incentive to leave his family and board a ship to America in 1885. His parents had a taste of the American dream when they developed a successful mercantile business in Kentucky in 1849 but were forced to return to Germany at the outbreak of the Civil War.[3] Dreyfuss was also encouraged to avoid conscription in the German Army, which could be harsh for Jewish youth. Barney would also be reuniting with his older sister Rosa who had married Bernard Bernheim and was living in Paducah.

Always the workaholic, Dreyfuss toiled six long days at the distillery and studied English at night. When a physician told Dreyfuss that his schedule would impact his health, Barney took his suggestion to develop a recreational pursuit. His business associates persuaded him that running a baseball club would give him that opportunity.[4] Barney had begun an appreciation of baseball almost since his arrival in Kentucky.[5] He began by organizing teams using distillery workers as players. As much as he enjoyed the game, Dreyfuss found greater fulfillment in organizing and managing local amateur teams.

The success of the Bernheim Brothers distillery forced the company to expand its operations and they moved to larger quarters in Louisville in 1888. Dreyfuss was convinced that baseball as a business enterprise had the potential of enormous profit. He convinced his cousins as well and with their backing, Dreyfuss joined with some other local distillers and invested in the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. Mordecai Davidson owned the team but he surrendered the club to the league in 1889, following a disastrous season.[6] In 1892, as Dreyfuss increased his investment, Louisville was admitted into the National League after a merger with the American Association.[7] By 1899, Dreyfuss was the sole owner of the club.

Barney Dreyfuss was aware that major changes were being proposed to restructure the National League. Some owners wanted to restrict cross ownership of teams while others wanted to create a syndication of clubs operated by one group that would distribute equity shares to club owners in return for absolute control. After much discussion, the magnates of the National League addressed this issue by contracting to an eight-team league and folded the Louisville, Cleveland, Washington and Baltimore franchises. Anticipating that Louisville was headed towards extinction, Dreyfuss brokered a deal that allowed him to purchase a half interest in the Pittsburgh Pirates and, by taking a smaller settlement from the National League ($10,000), he negotiated the transfer of the best players from Louisville to Pittsburgh. These players included Fred Clarke, Charles “Deacon” Phillippe, Tommy Leach, Rube Waddell and the great Honus Wagner. Such shrewd transactions quickly earned Dreyfuss recognition as “one of the greatest men connected with the game” whose passion was “dope” [e.g., player information] as he kept his offices “filled with volume after volume of statistics and records.”[8]

Within a year, and again borrowing from his cousins, Dreyfuss bought out his partners and operated the Pirates as sole owner for the next 32 years. On the horizon, however, was a competing major league led by Bancroft Johnson, who organized and transformed the minor Western League to challenge the supremacy of the National League. Skillfully, Dreyfuss kept the American League out of Pittsburgh, and lost only two players to the raiding Americans. He was also in the middle of the 1903 agreement that ended the war between the leagues. It was Dreyfuss who cemented the peace when he challenged the Boston Americans to a best of nine series between the pennant winners in October 1903, the first modern World Series.

When Barney Dreyfuss arrived in Pittsburgh in 1900, the Pirates played their home games at Exposition Park. Built in 1882, Exposition Park, “so-named because circuses and other big tent shows camped there when in town, occupied ground less than 50 yards from the Allegheny River”[9] near the former site of Three Rivers Stadium. Dreyfuss remarked, “The game was growing up, and patrons were no longer willing to put up with nineteenth century conditions.”[10]

Dreyfuss contemplated a move away from the river because when “the Allegheny River overflowed its banks, Exposition Park went under.”[11] It was common, especially during Dreyfuss’ presidency, to play a game even if the field conditions were unsuitable but the advance sale of tickets was large. After one such game, during which the outfield was flooded and players stood knee deep in water, the press nicknamed centerfield “Lake Dreyfuss.” Other reasons for considering a move included the inability of Dreyfuss to obtain a stadium lease in order to make repairs, his need to prevent other leagues from installing a team in Pittsburgh, and also importantly, the fact that Dreyfuss considered Exposition Park to be in “the wrong neighborhood.”[12]

Daniel Bonk wrote that “Dreyfuss saw the game as an entertainment vehicle that would need to attract citizens more affluent than the working class.”[13] Dreyfuss was ahead of his time when he realized that increasing attendance and increasing the profit per ticket would result in financial success. His search for a sight for a new ball park began in 1903: “When President Dreyfuss came to Pittsburg bringing with him Harry Pulliam as secretary of the Pittsburgh club the fans and the public in general here were content to see the plucky little magnate bring a winning combination to Pittsburgh. Exposition Park looked good enough to them but President Dreyfuss had hardly become a fixture at the head of the Pirate team before he had begun to seek new grounds.”[14] As the popularity of the Pirates increased over the years, Dreyfuss began to cultivate friends in high places. One such friend, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie, was instrumental in the development of Forbes Field.

The search for land to build a ballpark that met Dreyfuss’ needs coincided with the development of the Oakland section of Pittsburgh by Carnegie. The area was located about three miles from downtown and well connected by trolleys to various neighbor-hoods, and was dominated by an estate owned by Mary Schenley who had graciously donated 300 acres to Carnegie for a public park.[15] Carnegie later began a movement to develop Oakland as a cultural center of Pittsburgh. Eventually he endowed the Carnegie Institute there.

Guided by Carnegie, a Schenley estate trustee, Dreyfuss purchased seven acres of land from the Schenley estate after Mary’s death. Located adjacent to Schenley Park, the land purchase was one of the largest real estate deals in Pittsburgh history.[16] The trustees agreed to allow a ball park to be built as long as Dreyfuss agreed to a contract under which he “was required to spend a large sum of money to make the ball park fireproof and of a design that would harmonize with the other structures in the Schenley Park district.”[17]

Dreyfuss liked to gamble on horses and he frequented racetracks in the Northeast like New York’s Belmont Park. Belmont’s grandstand was designed by landscape architect Charles W. Leavitt, Jr. Dreyfuss presented his architectural requirements for the construction of a ball park and invited Leavitt to submit a plan.

A short obituary of Charles Wellford Leavitt, Jr., who died in 1928, described him as a “landscape engineer, designer of many public parks, country clubs, racetracks and large private estates.”[18] Leavitt designed such race tracks as Belmont Park and Saratoga, and he was instrumental in the town designs of Camden, NJ and Garden City, NY. He designed cemeteries as well, including the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla, NY, where Babe Ruth is buried.[19] Leavitt was born in 1871 in Riverton, NJ and was trained as a civil engineer, holding several positions until he opened his own engineering and landscape architecture firm in 1897. Although he was experienced in designing steel and concrete grandstands for several racetracks and had designed college campuses and several estates, Leavitt’s only baseball park was to be Forbes Field.[20]

Work on the tract of land began on January 1, 1909 and construction of the stadium began on March 1, 1909, by the Nicola Building Company. According to William Benswanger, Dreyfuss’ son-in-law who later served as club President after Dreyfuss died in 1932, “The actual work on Forbes Field was a record breaking achievement. It required just four months to build. Construction started March 1, 1909 and the first game was played June 30, 1909. This included not only erecting the vast steel stands but also filling in some thirty feet of right field, which was partial hollow, before the ground was leveled. Thirty one years later, when the decision was made to play night ball games, it took four months just to install the light standards.”[21]

Pirate manager Fred Clarke was deeply involved in the construction and design of the playing field. The Pittsburgh Post reported on May 1, 1909: “he [Clarke] paid a visit to Forbes Field and gave the groundkeeper at the new baseball park some further instructions about the diamond which is now progressing rapidly toward completion.”[22] On June 23, the paper reported “before starting west with the team, Clarke put in a busy day at the new park testing the apparatus which he devised and patented, for spreading the great canvas rain cover and removing it from the diamond. The experiments yesterday were highly satisfactory, and nothing less than hard rains that commence at game time, are likely now to cause postponements on the Pittsburgh Baseball program.”[23]

At a cost of about $2 million dollars, Forbes Field was erected and named for “General John Forbes, a British general in the French and Indian War, who captured Fort Duquesne from the French Army and renamed it Fort Pitt in 1758.”[24] Forbes Field opened its gates for the first time on the afternoon of June 30, 1909 for a game with the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 8-1 the day before at the last National League game played at Exposition Park.

Initially, Dreyfuss was criticized for building Forbes Field. Benswanger reported that “many thought Mr. Dreyfuss was making a mistake. He was called ‘crazy’ for taking such a step and was told ‘the park will never be filled’. It was filled the first day.”[25] Dan Bonk and Len Martin added that “his critics labeled Forbes Field ‘Dreyfuss’ Folly’ because it was too big, too fancy, and too far from downtown Pittsburgh. Characteristically, Dreyfuss never doubted his decision to build it. On opening day, as he stood inside the main gate, he shook the hands of those who came to congratulate him and told a local reporter, ‘this is the happiest day of my life.’”[26]

Donald Lancaster wrote that “opening day, June 30, 1909, was a beautiful day for a ball game.”[27] The game time was set for 3:30 p.m. against the World Champion Cubs, but fans began arriving at the ball bark as early as 9:00 a.m. to get a 25 cent bleacher seat. A discounted train fare was offered to fans going to the game. Streetcar workers had staged a strike at midnight on June 27, but it was quickly settled and service was restored to the stadium by game time.[28]

The Pittsburgh Post ran a special “preview” of Forbes Field on June 27. “The humble bleacherite will be as welcome at Forbes Field on opening day as the most austere box-holder.”[29] Dreyfuss stated that he would charge the same for opening day as he would for the entire season to encourage the loyalty of the fans of Pittsburgh.[30] Seat prices included $10 for a box of eight seats, $8.75 for roof boxes, $1 reserved seats, 75 cent general admission, 50 cent bleachers, and 25 cents for the temporary bleachers. Permanent capacity was about 25,000 (the largest in the major leagues), but on opening day 30,388 fans crammed into the park.[31]

Dedication ceremonies began at 1:30 p.m. culminating in the first pitch being thrown out by Pittsburgh Mayor William Magee. Many baseball dignitaries attended including Harry Pulliam, President of the National League and a former Pirate official (and who, tragically, would commit suicide less than one month later); Ban Johnson, President of the American League; and Civil War veteran Al Pratt who had managed the first professional team in Pittsburgh in 1882.[32]

Forbes Field was designed by Leavitt to be “fan friendly.” There were ramps instead of steps between decks and elevators (which were removed in 1947) took fans from the entrance to roof top boxes.” Leavitt’s most innovative feature, however, was the spacious promenade beneath the grandstands at street level. This feature made Forbes Field the only ball park in the league where everyone in the main grandstand could find cover to wait out rain showers.”[33]

The Pirates starting pitcher Vic Willis gave up a run in the first when Frank Chance singled home Johnny Evers. There was no scoring until the sixth as Willis and Cub hurler Ed Reulbach were locked in a pitching duel.[34] In the bottom of the sixth, Honus Wagner lead off with a single, Bill Abstein sacrificed “The Flying Dutchman” to second and Dots Miller knocked Wagner in with a single. The Cubs scored twice in the top of the eighth and Pittsburgh scored once in the bottom of the ninth.

With the Cubs leading 3-2, the Pirates mounted a rally in the ninth but Fred Clarke hit a ground ball to shortstop Joe Tinker with two on and two out and Jap Barbeau was forced out at second to end the game.[35] Though the Cubs spoiled opening day at Forbes Field, the Pirates went on win 110 games that season to beat out the Cubs for the 1909 National League pennant by 6½ games.

Barney Dreyfuss was on a roll and so was his team. Led by Honus Wagner’s seventh batting title and 66 victories from pitchers Howie Camnitz, Vic Willis, and Lefty Leifield, the Pirates marched into the first World Series played in Forbes Field. They were to meet a very successful team, the Detroit Tigers, making its third consecutive trip to the World Series after having won American League pennants but losing in 1907 and 1908 to the Cubs. The 1909 World Series highlighted the only meeting between deadball era superstars Wagner and Ty Cobb, the great outfielder for the Tigers and the American League. By the end of the series, the Pittsburg Dispatch would proclaim that Wagner outclassed Cobb on the field leaving “no doubt as to who is the best baseball player in the world.”[36]

The 1909 World Series opened on Friday, October 8, after Barney Dreyfuss had won a coin toss to host the first two games. The record crowd at Forbes Field expected to see their ace, Howie Camnitz (25-6) take the mound but he had succumbed to a sore throat and fever and was unable to pitch. “If all Pittsburgh acclaimed Babe Adams after the Series, many Pirate fans were not so sanguine when they saw their Babe march out to warm up against George Mullin, the big twenty-nine game winner of the American League champions. ‘What’s Fred [Clarke] doing sending a boy on a man’s errand?’ they asked.”[37]

The rookie Charles “Babe” Adams outpitched Mullin before a World Series record crowd of 29,264. Although Adams gave up an early run to Detroit, Manager Clarke tied the game with home run in the fourth inning and Pittsburgh added three more runs on Tiger errors in the fifth and sixth for a 4-1 victory.

“Rosebud” Camnitz may not have fully recovered from his bout of quinsy and the record crowd of 30,915 watched as Ty Cobb stole home and the Tigers even-up the Series with a 7-2 victory. Camnitz was relieved in the third by Willis and on Vic’s first pitch, Cobb made his dash to the plate. A controversial call occurred in the first inning of Game Two in which the two umpires on the field lost sight of a ball hit into a crowd of spectators. Beginning with the 1910 World Series, four umpires began working each game.[38]

The Series shifted to Detroit for Monday and Tuesday games October 11 and 12. The teams split the games with the Pirates outlasting Detroit 8-6 on Monday and George Mullin shutting out the Pirates on Tuesday 5-0. The series was tied two games all as the teams headed back to Pittsburgh for Game Five on Wednesday.

The Pirates and Tigers were greeted with raw weather and crowd of 21,706 at Forbes Field. Babe Adams won his second game although he gave up two homers. Dreyfuss had erected temporary bleachers[39] in center field and while the Tigers took early advantage of it, a three-run shot by Fred Clarke in the seventh inning to those same bleachers sealed the victory for Pittsburgh, 8-4.

Game Six was back in Detroit and George Mullin held on and won 5-4 despite a furious rally in the ninth inning by the Pirates. The series was now tied three games all. Dreyfuss and Detroit President Frank Navin were again subjected to a coin toss[40] to determine the site of Game Seven. Navin won and on October 16, the Tigers drew their biggest Series attendance of 17,562. The Detroit fans went home disappointed as Series hero Babe Adams pitched an 8-0 shut out. Barney Dreyfuss had his first World Championship. Pittsburgh Mayor William Magee began preparations for a holiday honoring the team: “The national game exemplifies the spirit of the American people as well or better than anything else. Today we are the envy of the entire country. Pittsburg [sic] during the past two weeks has excited the interest of the entire civilized world.”[41]

The Pirates did not win another pennant until 1925. Wagner had retired in 1917 and the team was outmatched for the next several seasons. In 1921, Dreyfuss acquired the flaky star shortstop Rabbit Maranville, who, along with first baseman Charlie Grimm, became fan favorites at Forbes Field. Because of his guitar playing and broad grin, Charley Grimm “worked his way into the hearts of Forbes Field patrons.”[42]

Still, Dreyfuss could not field a pennant winner. The New York Giants had won the NL flag four straight years starting in 1921. Dreyfuss engineered a pre-season trade in 1925 sending Grimm, Maranville and pitcher Wilbur Cooper to the Cubs for pitcher Vic Aldridge, infielder George Grantham and minor league first baseman Al Niehaus.[43]

The reorganized 1925 Pirates were packed with talented players including second year player Kiki Cuyler who put together a career year batting .357 with 18 homers and 102 RBIs. Pie Traynor, who was later to be voted the best third baseman of the first 50 years of the 20th century, batted .320 and knocked in 106 runs.[44] Base-stealer Max Carey and shortstop Glenn Wright (121 RBIs in 1925) also contributed as the Pirates finished 8 ½ games ahead of the Giants and prepared to face the Washington Senators with two of the greatest pitchers of the era, Walter “Big Train” Johnson and Stan Coveleski.

Years later, Traynor was asked to compare his 1925 Pirates team with the 1960 Pirates that had won the National League pennant. “Our team was like the present in one respect. We always expected to win and never were licked until the last man was out. In the final game of the Series, we handed Walter Johnson a four run lead in the first inning but we won, 9 to 7.”[45]

Babe Adams, the hero of the 1909 World Series, was still in a Pirate uniform for Game One of the 1925 Series.[46] Dreyfuss had built temporary grandstands in the outfield bringing the capacity of Forbes Field to over 40,000 customers.[47]

Game One featured Walter Johnson who struck out 10 Pirates on his way to a 4-1 victory. Prior to Game Two Christy Mathewson, the great pitcher for the New York Giants died at the age of 45. The players wore black armbands in his memory. Cuyler and Wright led the Pirates to even up the series by defeating Coveleski, 3-2.

The third game of the Series, won by Washington 4-3 had a very interesting twist to the game. The game was played in Griffith Stadium in Washington and with the Senators leading by one in the eighth, reliever Firpo Marberry had struck out Glenn Wright and Boots Grantham. Next up was catcher Earl Smith, who lined a drive to right center. Edgar “Sam” Rice leaped up, apparently catching the ball as he fell over the fence and into the stands. The Pirates claimed he dropped the ball and a fan placed it in his glove. Barney Dreyfuss led the charge onto the field to protest the out call. The controversy eventually made its way to Commissioner Landis who questioned Rice. He had in his possession several affidavits claiming that Rice never caught the ball and several who said he did. Rice held firm, insisting he had caught the ball.[48]

This issue of Rice’s catch mushroomed for years. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963 and he was always asked about his catch in the years he visited Cooperstown. He wrote a letter to the Hall of Fame in which he instructed the Hall to open it after his death. Rice died in 1974 at the age of 84 and his letter was opened. In it he maintained that he had made the catch.[49]

The “Big Train” came on to pitch a 4-0 shut out in game 4 and the Pirates had their backs to the wall going into Game Five down 3-1. Pittsburgh manager Bill McKechnie handed the ball to Vic Aldridge, the winner of Game Two. Adridge beat Coveleski again with the backing of Carey, Traynor, and Cuyler.

The series now returned to Forbes Field for Game Six on October 13, 1925. Before 43,810 fans, Pirate second baseman Eddie Moore socked a fifth inning home run breaking a 2-2 tie and forcing a seventh game. For the first time, a World Series Champion was to be decided at Forbes Field.[50]

Game Seven of the 1925 World Series was played in nasty, wet weather[51] but before a large crowd of almost 43,000. Walter Johnson took the mound for the third time and faced Vic Aldridge. Johnson had won Games One and Four, Aldridge Two and Five. On three days rest, Aldridge was wild and McKechnie yanked him in favor of Johnny Morrison with one out in the top of the first. Johnson had a 4-0 lead after one, and 6-3 after four, but he too may have succumbed to fatigue as he gave up 15 hits and 9 runs in eight innings. “The Big Train had jumped the tracks. And the Senators crashed with him, falling 9-7 and losing a series they seemingly had locked up a few days earlier. The Pirates’ comeback marked the first time a team had rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a best of seven series.”[52]

Pittsburgh sportswriter Fred Alger eloquently described the wild celebration in the Pirates’ Forbes Field clubhouse. He witnessed “hardened ball players bronzed by the sunshine of seven months of labor on the ball field, supposed to have no feelings, no nerves and no sense of conscience, falling upon each other’s neck – some crying from pure joy, others in fond embrace with a brother ball player.”[53] National League President John Heydler called the team the “gamest ball club”[54] he had ever seen, and Pirate manager Bill McKechnie understated the outcome when he told reporters that “we had a pretty good ball club after all.”[55]

In 1926, dissension on the team and petty power struggles[56] caused the Pirates to slip to third place behind St. Louis and Cincinnati. For the 1927 season, Dreyfuss cleaned house again and installed Donie Bush as manager. In a very close National League pennant race, three teams—the Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and the New York Giants—were within two games of the flag as the season ended, with the Pirates on top.[57]

On the strength of the Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, and the pitching of Ray Kremer, Lee Meadows and Carmen Hill the Pirates prevailed. Unfortunately, they were to meet the most feared lineup in baseball, the New York Yankees in the Series. Forbes Field hosted the first game of the 1927 World Series between the Pirates and the New York Yankees.

Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver has called the 1927 season “more than just a year in baseball. It as a year in which a legendary ball club was assembled, a club that has become the standard for measuring the best a team could be.”[58] The ’27 Yankee team had earned the moniker, Murderers Row. Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs that season, a record that stood for 34 years. With stars like Lou Gehrig and Earle Combs, the Yankees won 110 games and finished 19 games ahead of the Philadelphia A’s. The Yankees had won their second straight pennant and were looking to avenge a tough seventh game loss to the Cardinals the previous October.[59]

In 1948 sportswriter Fred Lieb noted the 1927 World Series was “a bad memory for Pirate fans.”[60] During batting practice before the first game, the Yankee sluggers hit tremendous drives over the walls in Forbes Field. “It was said that they already won the series in batting practice, intimidating the Pirates before Game One began.”[61] A contemporary account by Richards Vidmer of the New York Times described “the Yankees final practice yesterday [October 4, 1927] was a rather hilarious affair. Babe Ruth left the field in good spirits and five balls somewhere in Schenley Park. The Babe’s batting spree left interested onlookers, including the Pirates, open-mouthed in wonder. Most of them had never seen his majesty the ball mauler in action before.”[62] The Pirates got swept in four games.

The first two games were held in Pittsburgh. The Forbes Field faithful witnessed poor play by the Pirates including a misplayed fly ball by Paul Waner that led to a run scoring triple by Lou Gehrig in Game One. The costly errors multiplied throughout the Series. Following the defeat by the Yankees, a rumor surfaced that Dreyfuss was ready to sell the team. “Barney Dreyfuss never got over the humiliation.”[63]

After Game Four of the 1927 Series, Dreyfuss had marched into the gloomy Pirate clubhouse inside Yankee Stadium. While he felt the “crushing setback of his team,”[64] he tried in vain to lift up the spirits of his team after a wild pitch had cost Pittsburgh the game and the series. Donie Bush highly complimented the Yankees, but he also noted his team might have “cracked” under the strain of a tight pennant race.[65] “It is no reflection on the courage of the Pirates,” commented sportswriter Frank Graham of the New York Sun, “to say that one factor of their World Series defeat was a decided inferiority complex. They weren’t afraid of the Yanks; they simply were abashed by them.”[66]

Fred Leib reported that Dreyfuss “never reconciled himself to the four straight defeats suffered by his team in the 1927 World Series. His mortification was so great that he had tears in his eyes as he tried to congratulate Col. Jake Ruppert, President of the winning club.”[67]

Meanwhile, although Dreyfuss was angry and humiliated by the loss to New York, he began denying rumors that he was about to unload the team. Attending the World Series was Oklahoma oilman Lew Wentz accompanied by former Pirate manager Fred Clarke.[68] Wentz had an understanding with Dreyfuss that if the Pirates were ever for sale, he was interested. Thinking about selling his team after a downturn in events was characteristic of Dreyfuss who took losing very hard. In 1916, for example, after the National Commission ruled against Dreyfuss in his attempt to obtain the services of George Sisler, Dreyfuss held negotiations with former Boston Braves owner James E. Gaffney and Johnny Evers.[69]

Dreyfuss did not get his price in 1916 and surely wasn’t going to sell out in 1927. He wanted to retire and hand over the club to his son, Sam. In fact, Dreyfuss’ son had to issue a very strong statement to the press denying that the club was being sold even though “it had been persistently reported in both baseball and business circles that the deal had gone through.”[70] Barney Dreyfuss had taught his son well in the business of baseball, so much so that in his obituary, the New York Times called the Princeton graduate “one of the best informed executives in the baseball world.”[71]

When Barney Dreyfuss died February 5, 1932, at the age of 66 of pneumonia and prostatitis, he was still in charge of the Pirates. He had retired in 1930 from day-to-day activities and had turned the Presidency over to Sam. But before the 1931 season commenced, Sam died of pneumonia. Although Dreyfuss returned for one more season, his heart was not in it as he was emotionally spent by Sam’s death.[72] After Dreyfuss died, Barney’s widow, Florence, delegated the operation of the Pirates to son-in-law William Benswanger until the family sold the team in 1946.[73]

In his obituary, it was noted that Barney Dreyfuss had gained “the distinction of being the most thoroughly schooled baseball man to be found among club owners.”[74] John Heydler, President of the National League, claimed that Dreyfuss “discovered more great players than any man in the game and his advice and counsel always were sought by his associates.”[75] Several of the leading baseball men echoed Heydler’s sentiment, including Commissioner Landis, Jacob Ruppert, Charles Stoneham, and William Harridge.

He was one of the most innovative owners and considered an outstanding judge of baseball talent. Branch Rickey told Lee Allen, historian at the Baseball Hall of Fame, that “Dreyfuss was the best judge of players he had ever seen.[76]

The legacy of Barney Dreyfuss is enormous. He was a peacemaker, helping to settle the conflict between the National and American Leagues. He was a builder and the construction of Forbes Field is a testament to his innovation and resourcefulness. He was a facilitator so that when conflicts of interest arose that threatened to tear the political structure of the game apart, Barney Dreyfuss was there to mediate the important issues by creating a path towards resolution. Between 1895 and 1932, Dreyfuss was in the middle of every important decision facing professional baseball including syndication, contraction, league conflicts, the Federal League, schedules, and of course, the scandal arising out of the 1919 World Series.

Ralph Davis called Dreyfuss “a whole soul”[77] not only because he was a cool and calculating baseball magnate, the “father” of the World Series, and prime mover behind the construction of Forbes Field, but also because he remained until his death “a rooter, a dyed-in-the-wool baseball enthusiast.”[78]

Forbes Field, called The House of Thrills by radio announcer Bob Prince[79], continued as the home of the Pirates until 1970 when it was replaced by Three Rivers Stadium. His widow, Florence, resisted a movement to re-name the park as Dreyfuss Field, but in 1934 a monument was erected in the outfield at Forbes Field to commemorate his contributions to Pittsburgh. The Dreyfuss family sold the team in 1946 to a group headed by John W. Galbreath.

One last World Series was played in Forbes Field in 1960. Barney Dreyfuss finally got his long awaited revenge, albeit posthumously, as the Pirates defeated the New York Yankees in seven games.


[1] Sporting Life 3 July 1909: 4

[2] Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, The Story of the Bernheim Family (Louisville: John P. Morton & Co., 1910) 64-65.

[3] Bernheim 6.

[4] John Kieran, “The Passing of Barney Dreyfuss,” New York Times, 6 February 1932: 22.

[5] Dennis DeValeria and Jeanne Burke DeValeria, Honus Wagner: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995) 61.

[6] Bob Bailey, “The Louisville Colonels of 1890,” The National Pastime 13 (1993): 66.

[7] A.K. “Rosey” Rowswell, Pittsburgh Baseball Thru the Years (Pittsburgh: Fort Pitt Brewing Company, 1952) 11-12.

[8] Ralph S. Davis, “Barney Dreyfuss – the Man,” Baseball Magazine, July 1908: 27.

[9] Daniel L Bonk, “Ball Park Figures: The Story of Forbes Field,” Pittsburgh History, Summer 1993: 55.

[10] Bonk 55.

[11] Michael Benson, Ball Parks of North America (North Carolina: McFarland, 1989) 310.

[12] Bonk 55.

[13] Bonk 55

[14] Pittsburgh Post, 1 July 1909: 10.

[15] Bonk 55.

[16] Donald G. Lancaster, “Forbes Field Praised as a Gem When It Opened,” Baseball Research Journal 15 (1986): 26.

[17] Lancaster 26.

[18] New York Times, 24 April 1928: 25.

[19] Bonk 57.

[20] Bonk 57.

[21] Forbes Field 60th Birthday (Pittsburgh: Century Printing Co., n.d.) 1.

[22] Pittsburgh Post, 1 May 1909: 9.

[23] Pittsburgh Post, 23 June 1909: 12.

[24] Philip Lowry, Green Cathedrals, (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1992) 217.

[25] Forbes Field 60th Birthday, 1.

[26] Len Martin and Dan Bonk, Forbes Field: Build-it-Yourself (Pittsburgh: Point Four Ltd., 1995) 64.

[27] Lancaster 28.

[28] Pittsburgh Post, 29 June 1909: 1.

[29] Pittsburgh Post, 27 June 1909: 6.

[30] Pittsburgh Post, 27 June 1909: 6.

[31] Bonk 56.

[32] Bonk 57.

[33] Bonk 64.

[34] Lancaster 28.

[35] Lancaster 29.

[36] Pittsburg Dispatch, 17 October 1909: 2.

[37] Fred Lieb, The Story of the World Series: An Informal History (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1949) 64.

[38] Lieb 65.

[39] John Thorn et al., Total Baseball, 6th Ed. (New York: Total Sports Publishing, 1999) 326.

[40] Lieb 68.

[41] Pittsburg Dispatch, 17 October 1909: 1.

[42] Fred Lieb, “The Pittsburgh Pirates,” The National League ed. Ed Fitzgerald (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1959) 63.

[43] Lieb, “The Pittsburgh Pirates” 65.

[44] David Nemec et al., 20th Century Baseball Chronicle: A Year by Year History of Major League Baseball (Illinois: Publications International Ltd., 1992) 113.

[45] The Sporting News, 5 October 1960: 10.

[46] Adams pitched one scoreless inning in relief in Game 4 of the 1925 World Series. He was 43 years old.

[47] Abby Mendelson, “1925 World Series.” [Available at].

[48] Steve Wulf and Amy Guip, “The Secrets of Sam,” Sports Illustrated, 19 July 1993: 58.

[49] Wulf and Guip 58.

[50] The next time was in 1960.

[51] Mendelson [Available at].

[52] The Sporting News, “History of the World Series: 1925.” [Available at]

[53] Pittsburgh Post, 16 October 1925: 14.

[54] Pittsburgh Post, 16 October 1925: 14.

[55] Pittsburgh Post, 16 October 1925: 1.

[56] Lieb, “The Pittsburgh Pirates” 66-67.

[57] Nemec 122.

[58] Tom Seaver with Marty Appel, Great Moments in Baseball (New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1992) 88.

[59] Nemec 126.

[60] Lieb, “The Pittsburgh Pirates” 68.

[61] Seaver 94.

[62] G.H. Fleming, Murderers Row (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1985) 370.

[63] Lieb, “The Pittsburgh Pirates” 68.

[64] New York Times, 9 October 1927: 5.

[65] New York Times, 9 October 1927: 5.

[66] Fleming 387.

[67] The Sporting News, 5 October 1960: 11.

[68] New York Times, 11 October 1927: 38.

[69] New York Times, 15 December 1916: 14.

[70] New York Times, 11October 1927: 38.

[71] New York Times, 23 February 1931: 21.

[72] New York Times, 6 February 1932: 21

[73] New York Times, 17 January 1972: 34.

[74] New York Times, 6 February 1932: 21.

[75] New York Times, 6 February 1932: 21.

[76] Lee Allen, Cooperstown Corner: Columns from The Sporting News (Cleveland, OH: SABR, 1990) 164.

[77] Davis 28.

[78] Davis 27.

[79] Curt Smith, Storied Stadiums (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. 2002) 71.

Full Name

Bernhard Dreyfuss


February 23, 1865 at Freiburg, (Germany)


February 5, 1932 at New York, NY (US)

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