Posts Tagged ‘Washington Redskins’

D.C. Stadium – RFK Stadium

October 12th, 2013

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 Stadium/Armory Complex Postcard (L.B. Prince Co. and Dexter Press)

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.

Seats Removed During RFK Stadium's Renovation Prior to Baseball's Return in 2005

In Septemer 2004, Major League Baseball announced that the Montreal Expos franchise was moving to Washington.

RFK Stadium Winter 2004 Preparing for Return of Baseball to D.C.

After a 33 year hiatus, baseball returned to Washington and RFK Stadium commencing in 2005.

Nationals Team Store Located in RFK Parking Lot

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.

RFK Stadium Opening Day 2005

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!).

Medal Detectors Outside Gate A RFK Stadium Opening Day 2005

On Opening Day 2005, President George W. Bush was on hand to throw out the first pitch.

Opening Ceremonies 2005

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.

Batting Practice at RFK Stadium

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.

RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

The upper reaches of the stadium along first and third base offered quite a sense of vertigo.

It Was A Long Way to the Infield From the Last Row at RFK

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.

Supports for Roof Over RFK 's Upper Deck With Football Press Box in Background

All the yellow seats in the upper deck are wooden and date back to when the ballpark opened in 1961.

A Sea of Yellow, Wooden Seats at RFK Stadium

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.

Third Base Side Dugout Exposed to Accomodate D.C. United's Field

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.

Night Game View of RFK Stadium's Cavernous Outfield

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.

View From Center Field Upper Deck, RFK Stadium

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 Nationals's Presidents Race Started at RFK Stadium

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.

Champions Club, RFK Stadiu

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.

Frank Robinson's Last Day As Manager at RFK Stadium in 2006

The 2007 baseball season was to be the last one played at RFK.

RFK Opening Day 2007

During the 2007 season the Nationals placed a countdown banner in left field noting the number of home games left at RFK.

RFK's Count Down Banner

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.

RFK Video Board Announces That the End is Nigh For Baseball

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 Last Day of Professional Baseball at RFK Stadium

The Washington Nationals now play their home games in Nationals Park, located two and a half miles southwest of RFK Stadium.

Nationals Park, Home of the Washington Nationals

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.

Major League Soccer Is Still Played at RFK, For Now

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in D.C. Stadium/RFK Stadium, Washington DC ballparks | Comments (5)

Griffith Stadium And The Site Of D.C.’s First Nationals Park

October 9th, 2013

Baseball was played in Washington, D.C., at the intersection of Georgia and Florida Avenues for 70 years, beginning in 1891, up through the end of the 1961 season.  The original ballpark, called Boundary Field because it was located on Boundary Road (now Florida Avenue) at the District of Columbia’s former city limits, was home in 1891 to the Washington Senators of the American Association, and from 1892 to 1899 to the National League Washington Senators.

With the beginning of the American League in 1901, the American League Washington Senators began play at American League Park (I) which was located in Northeast Washington at the intersection of Florida Avenue, H Street, and Bladensburg Road in what is now the Trinidad Neighborhood (thanks to alert reader Geoffrey Hatchard).

American League Park (I) (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

In 1904, the American League Washington Senators moved to the Boundary Field location, making it their new home ballpark. Known also as Nationals Park, the park was constructed almost entirely of wood.

Fire Destroys American League Park (II) on March 17, 1911 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Fire Destroys American League Park (II) on March 17, 1911 (Harris & Ewing Photograph, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

A fire  on March 17, 1911 (caused by a plumbers lamp), destroyed the grandstand and a new concrete and steel stadium was built in its place.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

The new ballpark was also known as Nationals Park,  up until 1920 when the venue was renamed Griffith Stadium in honor of Clark Griffith , the Washington Senator’s manager turned owner.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

The Senators played at Griffith Stadium up through 1960, when, after the season ended, the team relocated to Minnesota. The 1961 expansion Washington Senators played at Griffith Stadium in 1961, moving to D.C. Stadium (later renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium) in 1962.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Griffith Stadium also served as home field for the Negro National League Homestead Grays from 1940 until 1948, that team splitting their home games between Washington and Pittsburgh. The National Football League Washington Redskins likewise played at Griffith Stadium from 1937 until 1960.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Home plate at Griffith Stadium was located near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and V Street, N.W.

Aerial View of Griffith Stadium (image historypressblog.net)

Howard University Hospital now occupies the site, the main hospital building sitting in the approximate footprint of Griffith Stadium.

Howard University Hospital, Former Site of Griffith Stadium

Signs posted in front of Howard University Hospital along Georgia Avenue honor the memory of Griffith Stadium.

Plaque Honoring Memory of Griffith Stadium

The reverse side of the above sign recognizes significant moments in the ballpark’s history.

Plaque Honoring Memory of Griffith Stadium

Home plate is marked with a batter’s box inside the hospital’s main entrance.

Griffith Stadium Home Plate Marker Inside Howard University Hospital (picture courtesy Erik Cox Photography)

Griffith Stadium Home Plate Marker Inside Howard University Hospital (picture courtesy Erik Cox Photography)

First base paralleled Georgia Avenue, angling away from Georgia Avenue toward U Street.

Approximate location of Griffith Stadium Right Field Grandstand

A ticket booth as well as the grandstand entrance once sat at the site.

Postcard of Griffith Stadium Right Field Grandstand Entrance (copyright 1968 John F. Cummings)

Several row houses that sat in the shadow of the right field grandstand remain at the site along U Street.

Row Houses Along U Street Near What Was Once Griffith Stadium’s Right Field Grandstand

Right field to the center field corner paralleled U Street.

Former Location of Right Fied Corner (far) to Center Field Fence (near)

Buildings that once sat in the shadow of the right field fence still remain at the site as well along U Street.

Row Houses  Along U Street That Once Sat in the Shadow of Griffith Stadium’s Right Field Fence

Griffith Stadium’s center field fence was infamous for its quirky indentation at the center field corner. Behind that fence sat several row houses, which the ball club unsuccessfully had attempted to purchase from their owners. Two of those row houses remain at the site.

Row Houses Facing 5th Street That Once Sat Behind Center Field Fence

In addition to those row houses was a large oak tree that actually spread across the top of the center field fence. Although that tree is now gone, there is a smaller tree at the site today, planted in approximately the same spot.

Tree On Right Sits in Approximate Location of Large Oak Tree That Once Hung Over Griffith Stadium’s Center Field Fence

Griffith Stadium’s left field fence and bleachers paralleled 5th Street. That area is now a parking lot that runs along the back side of Howard University Hospital.

Former Site of Griffith Stadium’s Left Field Bleachers

Third base ran parallel to what is now an alley between the hospital and buildings that front W Street.

Former location of Griffith Stadium’s third base and left field grandstands

Across the alley paralleling third base are several hospital buildings that date from the time of Griffith Stadium, including the College of Medicine.

Howard University’ College of Medicine Building

Several other buildings that sit near the former site have a connection with the ballpark as well. The row house at 434 Oakdale Place  is the spot where Mickey Mantle’s famous 565 foot home run off Senator’s pitcher Chuck Stobbs on April 17, 1953, landed. Ten year old Donald Dunaway, who was attending the game and watched the ball sail over his head, found the ball in the backyard of the row house.

434 Oakdale Place (two story row house to left of three story house) – Where Mickey Mantle’s 565 Home Run Landed

Another building of note is the Wonder Bread Factory that was located at 641 S Street, N.W., just two blocks south of Griffith Stadium. The smell of bread baking at the factory often filled the air during games. The building today retains its original facade and serves the local art community by providing exhibition space.

Old Wonder Bread Factory Located Two Blocks South of Griffith Stadium Site

Given the ballpark’s location in the Nation’s Capitol, Griffith Stadium played host to many of the nation’s famous Americans. Presidents from William Howard Taft to Richard Nixon (then Vice President) threw out ceremonial first pitches to start the baseball season.

Walter Johnson Greeting President Calvin Coolidge (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

No baseball player best epitomized the Senators of the Griffith Stadium era than Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, who not only pitched for the team for over 20 years, but also was a radio announcer for the Senators after he retired from baseball. Upon his death in 1946, the team placed a memorial to Johnson at Griffith Stadium.

Walter Johnson Memorial at Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

That memorial, a small piece of Griffith Stadium, resides today near the athletic fields at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland.

Walter Johnson Memorial Located at Walter Johnson High School (on right side of photograph)

When Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, stadium seats were shipped to Orlando, Florida, and installed in Tinker Field, which at the time was the Spring Training home of Calvin Griffith’s Minnesota Twins. Those relics of Washington, D.C., baseball remain at Tinker Field, which is located next door to the Citrus Bowl.

Seats from Griffith Stadium, Installed in 1965 at Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida

Although Griffith Stadium has been a lost ballpark since its demolition in 1965, there still is much to see at the site today. Inside the hospital’s main entrance on Georgia Avenue is a small museum in one of the conference rooms that honors Griffith Stadium and significant events from its history. In a corridor just beyond the conference room is the actual location of home plate, which is marked on the hallway floor along with the outline of the batters box.

The former site of Griffith Stadium is located only three and a half miles north of the Washington Nationals current ballpark – the new Nationals Park, and is well worth a visit for any of the team’s current fans who are interested in experiencing a little of D.C.’s baseball past.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Griffith Stadium/Boundary Field/Nationals Park, Washington DC ballparks | Comments (10)