RFK Stadium is located at 2400 East Capitol Street in southeast Washington, D.C. The stadium was home to the American League Washington Senators starting in 1962. Known then as D.C. Stadium, in 1969 the ballpark was renamed in memory of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The Senators played at RFK through the 1971 season, when the franchise moved to Arlington, Texas, and was renamed the Texas Rangers. Prior to RFK, the Senators played their home games at Griffith Stadium.
RFK is a multi-purpose stadium which also hosted the National Football League Washington Redskins beginning in 1961, through the 1996 season. Likewise, Major League Soccer’s D.C. United has called RFK its home since 1996. The stadium has hosted other professional sports teams such as the Washington Freedom and the Washington Diplomats.
In Septemer 2004, Major League Baseball announced that the Montreal Expos franchise was moving to Washington.
After a 33 year hiatus, baseball returned to Washington and RFK Stadium commencing in 2005.
Major League Baseball owned the team when it moved the franchise to Washington. As a nod to baseball history, MLB christened the team the Washington Nationals.
The name was a homage to the city’s earliest professional baseball teams, the 1884 Union Association Washington Nationals, and the 1891 American Association Washington Nationals. The name also was a nod to the American League Senators which sometimes was referred to as Nationals or Nats, and from 1905 to 1906 had the word NATIONALS” emblazoned on its uniform (thanks RUken!).
On Opening Day 2005, President George W. Bush was on hand to throw out the first pitch.
RFK was the fourth multi-purpose stadium built in the country, Municipal Stadium in Cleveland being the first. Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium was the second such stadium and Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis was the third. Thus, RFK is the oldest multi-purpose stadium still standing in the United States.
Home plate was positioned facing east, toward the Whitney Young Memorial Bridge. The stadium’s distinctive, wavy roof line curved upward, optimizing its seating capacity along first and third base.
The upper reaches of the stadium along first and third base offered quite a sense of vertigo.
The press box for Redskin games was located in the upper deck on the first base side. When the Nationals arrived in 2005, the press box was covered over with signage.
All the yellow seats in the upper deck are wooden and date back to when the ballpark opened in 1961.
To accommodate the dimensions and seating for football and soccer, the lower bowl seating along third base and up to the left field corner were mounted on rollers and moved along a track into the outfield behind left field. Those seats, lacking a rigid foundation underneath, bounced when fans jumped up and down on them.
Because space was needed in the outfield to accommodate the movable seats, fans situated in the lower reaches of the outfield seats sat high above the action.
RFK Stadium was the last major league baseball park in the country where fans could walk around the entire perimeter of the upper deck seating bowl and see the game.
The Presidents Race originated at RFK Stadium in 2005, growing out of the PNC Dollar Derby – a cartoon shown on the video board pitting George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexander Hamilton (note, he was not a president) in a car race. The Presidents Race, featuring live mascots, began during the 2006 season.
The main entrance to RFK Stadium is the eastern most entrance at Gate D. Above that entrance is a mezzanine which includes a restaurant typically reserved for use by season ticket holders.
Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was the Nationals first manager, having managed the Montreal Expos prior to their arrival in Washington. He often stood along the dugout fence (the National’s home dugout at RFK was along third base) and was easy to spot, even from the stands behind the third base dugout.
The 2007 baseball season was to be the last one played at RFK.
During the 2007 season the Nationals placed a countdown banner in left field noting the number of home games left at RFK.
On September 23, 2007, the Nationals played their final game at RFK, a 5–3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The announced attendance for that game was 40,519.
Thirty-six years earlier, on September 30, 1971, the Senators played their last game in front of 14,460 fans. However, the game was declared a forfeit when, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and the Senators leading the Yankees 7-5, fans rushed the field. The final home game of the Washington Nationals was a much more civil affair.
The Washington Nationals now play their home games in Nationals Park, located two and a half miles southwest of RFK Stadium.
RFK Stadium is not yet a lost ballpark. Its main tenant currently is D.C. United, which has a lease to play its home games at RFK through the 2015 season.
Once D.C. United leaves RFK, however, it will be only a matter of time before RFK is consigned to history. Having lasted over 50 years, it remains one of the oldest ballparks still standing in the United States. If you haven’t been there yet, be sure to take the time to stop for a picture when you are in D.C., or perhaps take in a soccer game.