Griffith Stadium - 1911-1965

Washington's Historic Ballpark

 




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Welcome to the home of Griffith Stadium. Our site is dedicated to Washington's Historic Ballpark. We feature photos, articles and interviews about this great and historic park. Every subject from Mickey Mantle's monster home run to the great Walter Johnson is featured. We will also have stories about the Washington Redskins as they also called Griffith Statium home. So visit us often and return to Washington's home sports excellence, Griffith Stadium.

Griffith Stadium was a sports stadium that stood in Washington, D.C. from 1911 to 1965, at the corner of Georgia Avenue and W Street, NW. An earlier wooden baseball park had stood on the site, built in 1891. It was called Boundary Field or National Park, as its occupants were then known primarily by the nickname "Nationals". This park was destroyed by a fire in March 1911, and replaced by a steel and concrete structure, also at first called National Park; it was renamed for Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith in 1920. The stadium was home to the American League Senators from 1911 through 1960, and to an expansion team of the same name for their first season in 1961. The venue hosted the 1937 and 1956 Major League Baseball All-Star Games. It served as a part-time home for the Negro League team called the Homestead Grays during the 1930s and 1940s. It was also home to the Washington Redskins of the National Football League for 24 seasons, from the time they transferred from Boston in 1937 through the 1960 season.

William Howard Taft began the tradition of presidents throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season at Griffith Stadium. Harry Truman, being ambidextrous, enjoyed showing off by throwing the baseball with either hand. According to some reports, he would alternate from year to year.

The stadium was laid out at a strange angle within its block in the Washington street grid. Thus, it was over 400 feet down the left field line (east) to the bleachers (though this distance was shortened in later years by the construction of an inner fence). The fence also took an unusual right-angled jut into right-center field where a large tree and several apartment buildings stood, due to the unwillingness of the owners of the tree and those nearby houses to sell to the Senators' owners during construction of the stadium. The right field fence angled away from the infield sharply which, in addition to a 30-foot fence (to block the view from surrounding buildings) about 8 feet inside the lower, outer wall, meant that relatively few home runs were hit at the stadium. Center field was east-southeast of home plate, which made for difficult visibility for the fielders in the late afternoon sun.

The distance fences were no problem for sluggers like Josh Gibson, Mickey Mantle and the Senators' own youngster Harmon Killebrew. Gibson is reported to have hit baseballs over the left field bleachers twice. Babe Ruth hit near-500 foot drives over the center and right-center walls on consecutive days in May, 1921. Mantle hit one that was so impressive that someone tried to determine its flight with some precision, thus popularizing the term "Tape Measure Home Run". It was alleged to be 565 feet, although it bounced off the top of the back wall of the bleachers, adding some distance to its flight path.

Only one Washington, DC public high school baseball player ever hit a home run over the 30-foot high "green monster-like" right field wall at Griffith Stadium - Bill Harrison of Coolidge High School in 1952.

Some have said baseball was bad in Washington. History says otherwise. With the advent of the great Clark Griffith nothing would be further from the truth. Griffith took over as manager in 1912, the first full season in what would become Griffith Stadium, the team finished second. In fact, for the first 32 years of Griffith's association with the team, Washington NEVER finished last. When it finally happened, it was during the depth of World War II (1944) and was sandwiched between two second-place finishes. It wasn't until 1947 that Washington began a run of bad seasons, and by the then, the "first in war'' line was ancient.

In the fall of 1961, the Redskins and Senators moved to the new D.C. Stadium (renamed R.F.K. Stadium in January 1969). Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, and the Howard University Hospital now occupies the site.

* - Article from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Andrew Sharp and David A. Jones


Griffith Stadium site looking down 5th Street in March 2012

Special Links:

Griffith Stadium Home Runs by Andrew Sharp

National Public Radio: Memories of Washington's Griffith Stadium (audio)

The Right Field Fence/Wall and Ballparks of the Deadball Era by Ron Selter

The Forgotten D.C. Baseball Legend - Sam Rice by Mark Hornbaker

The Babe in D.C. by Mark Hornbaker

Washington Baseball Resources by Andrew Sharp

Mantle's 565 Blast by Andrew Sharp

 

Site updated on April 15, 2012

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