Griffith Stadium

From Academic Kids

Griffith Stadium
Location Washington, DC
Opened July 24, 1911
Closed September 21, 1961
Capacity 32,000
Owned By Washington Senators
Architect:

Osborn Engineering

Dimensions:
Left
Left-Center
Center
Right-Center
Right


407 ft. (1907), 388 ft. (1954)
383 ft. (1931), 366 ft. (1954)
421 ft.
378 ft. (1954)
320 ft.

Griffith Stadium was a sports stadium that stood in Washington, DC from 19111965, at the corner of Georgia Avenue and W Street, NW. An earlier wooden baseball park that stood on the site, built in 1891, was destroyed by a fire in March 1911, and replaced by the steel and concrete Griffith Stadium. The stadium was home to the Washington Senators of the American League from 19111960, and an expansion team of the same name in 1961. It served as a part-time home for the Negro League team called the Homestead Grays during the 1930s and 40s. It was also home to the Washington Redskins of the National Football League 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. A big baseball fan (in more ways than one), legend has it that he also inadvertently inaugurated the tradition of the Seventh-inning stretch.

The stadium was laid out at an unusual angle within its block in the Washington street grid. Thus, it was over 400 feet down the left field line 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 owner Clark Griffith during construction of the stadium. The right field fence angled away from the infield sharply which, in addition to a 30-foot "spite" fence about 8 feet inside the lower, outer wall, meant that relatively few home runs were hit at the stadium.

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. 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".

Aside from some championship seasons in the early 1920s and 1930s, the Senators teams that played at Griffith stadium were legendarily bad. There is this time-honored saying about our nation's first President, for whom the city was named, "Washington: First in War, First in Peace and First in the Hearts of his Countrymen". That old saw was twisted into this perennial Vaudeville joke, "Washington: First in War, First in Peace, and Last in the American League!"

Supposedly, Senators groundskeepers ensured that it was actually slightly downhill towards first base in order to give sluggish Senators players an extra step.

In the fall of 1961, the Redskins and Senators moved to the newly built D.C. Stadium (which was re-named R.F.K. Stadium in 1968). Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965 and Howard University Hospital now stands on the site.

Sources:

  • Green Cathedrals, by Phil Lowry.
  • Lost Ballparks, by Lawrence Ritter.
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