Like many people, Mark Fatla found himself with little to do during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic with so many public venues shut down. As such, he decided to dedicate himself to a project to fill his time.
That project turned out to be a book detailing Pittsburgh’s various baseball parks throughout the decades, and is now set to release on March 13 through Arcadia Publishing. Titled “Pittsburgh’s Historic Ballparks,” the tome goes into the history of where professional baseball was played in Pittsburgh between 1876 and the present, including a look at the Negro Leagues.
Fatla, who is the former executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, called the Northside the “cradle of baseball in this region.” As a Northside resident, Fatla said he got the idea for the book when he realized that Northsiders from years past likely also walked to see professional baseball games like he did, though at different fields, and he wondered what their experiences were like.
While baseball moved away from the Northside with the construction of Forbes Field in 1909, it returned in 1970 with the construction of Three Rivers Stadium and remains in the area to this day with PNC Park.
Fatla said researching for the book proved to be a challenge for multiple reasons. One major reason is that it appears he was delving into uncharted territory as far as baseball research went.
“There’s not a lot written about the ballparks themselves,” he said. “This book is about the ballparks, how they were designed, constructed and ultimately how they were demolished.”
Fatla said he found much of historic baseball lore tended to touch upon the players or championship series, and not where those games took place.
In fact,Fatla was shocked to discover a lot of information he found about the parks was straight-up incorrect, according to him.
“A lot of what was written was wrong,” he said. “I discovered a lot of inaccuracies about what was written previously about the ballparks.”
“You can multiply that times 10 for the Negro Leagues,” he added.
A further difficulty came due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fatla was unable to get access to many libraries or archive collections for a long time due to shutdowns during the crisis, so much so that he believes it significantly delayed how long it took him to finish the book.
“The pandemic made that harder, so it took about a year longer than I hoped, but I stayed with it,” he said.
In the end, Fatla was able to collect 220 images for use in the book, spread across nine major league baseball stadiums in Pittsburgh. The Arcadia Publishing format for their books is to use pictures and captions to detail history.
While Fatla said the format was a challenge, he also called it a “fascinating exercise.” He aimed to make his book more of a narrative despite the more disjointed format, establishing a clear sequence of events.
When asked whether he had a favorite ballpark after all his research, Fatla struggled to settle on just one, though there is one he’d be most interested in seeing if he could.
“I can’t say I’ve got a favorite,” he said. “If I could go back in time, I’d probably like to see Recreation Park because it’s on the Northside and there’s so little known about it.”
“Pittsburgh’s Historic Ballparks” is Fatla’s first book, but he’s already set to write another. He’s planning a sequel, hopefully to be released next year, to cover the stadiums and arenas for Pittsburgh’s other professional sports.
For now, “Pittsburgh’s Historic Ballparks” is available to pre-order on Amazon or directly from Arcadia Publishing, at arcadiapublishing.com. n